The NSW Blues suffered a five-wicket collapse for just 25 runs as Western Australia clawed their way back into the Sheffield Shield final late on day one.
NSW reached stumps at 6-242 after winning the toss and electing to bat on a flat deck in front of 1,723 spectators at Canberra’s Manuka Oval.
The Blues were well in command at 1-164 before WA medium-fast bowler Michael Hogan (2-43) snared the key wicket of opener Ryan Carters (72) in the last over before tea – and Ben Rohrer was dismissed cheaply after the break.
NSW skipper Steve Smith (75) backed up his stellar Test form, and looked well on the way to a century before falling victim to a freakish reflex caught and bowled by impressive paceman Jason Behrendorff (3-41).
It stirred the young Warriors left-armer into top gear, and he clean bowled Kurtis Patterson (8) before removing keeper Peter Neville for a duck to reduce the Blues to 6-189.
Moises Henriques (24 not out) and Stephen O’Keefe (26 not out) steadied the ship, yet WA’s fight back keeps them in contention to be the first away team to win a Shield final since 2004-05.
The late wickets were courtesy of some sharp reverse swing around the 60-over mark, and until then NSW looked barely troubled.
Carters’s classy 72 means with he’s now the second-highest run scorer for NSW in a debut season, passing Michael Bevan’s 854 in 1990-91, but still 76 runs short of Mark Taylor’s 1985-86 efforts.
NSW only need a draw to lift the trophy again for the first time since 2008, while the Warriors are contesting their first Shield final in 15 years.
The Blues secured the hosting rights last week with their three-wicket victory against WA but chose to stage the final in Canberra because the SCG was booked for the Major League Baseball season-opening series this weekend.