NSW are set to win their first Sheffield Shield title since 2008, with rain wiping out the majority of day four’s play in the final against Western Australia.
The Blues, who are a commanding 326 runs ahead, are 3-59 in their second innings at Canberra’s Manuka Oval.
They added just 13 runs for the loss of one wicket in the first hour of play on Monday before rain intervened.
The rain continued throughout the day before play was abandoned at 4.45pm, which suits NSW, as they only require a draw in the five-day final to claim the Shield for a 46th time since the competition started in 1892-93.
WA will now need to perform the highly improbable task of taking seven lightning-quick wickets then chasing down upwards of 350 runs all in the final day’s play.
WA skipper Adam Voges refused to give up hope, despite forecasts for more rain on Tuesday.
“It’s incredibly frustrating, obviously we had a long way to try and claw our way back into the game, but this weather hasn’t helped,” he said.
WA got off to a good start on Monday, paceman Jason Behrendorff (2-30) jagging the wicket of Ben Rohrer (27) just minutes before the rain started with a solid edge to keeper Sam Whiteman.
But their uphill battle will be made all the more difficult with Blues skipper Steve Smith looking in good nick on 31 not out.
“We’ll be realistic, the chances are slim, but we’ve got to hang on to that slim hope,” Voges said.
“If we can get seven wickets, we’ll throw the (Marsh brothers) up the top and let them have a licence.”
NSW’s dominant position was set up by a six-wicket haul to paceman Josh Hazlewood and a classy ton from Test squad all-rounder Moises Henriques, the duo delivering a killer one-two blow to WA’s hopes of winning their first Shield in 15 years.
Yet NSW coach Trevor Bayliss said it was too early to declare the title a sure thing.
“We’re obviously in a very good position,” he said.
“But you just never know do you? We lost 5-25 in the first innings.
“That would give the opposition a sniff and you never know what could happen.”
Meanwhile, NSW all-rounder Stephen O’Keefe has received a fine for breaching the Cricket Australia code of behaviour on day two of the final.
O’Keefe accepted a 20 per cent fine of his match fee for abuse of equipment in the player’s race after he was dismissed in a tight lbw decision.