South Australia have given themselves a sniff of outright victory in their day-night Sheffield Shield clash with NSW at Adelaide Oval.
The Redbacks on Wednesday reached stumps on day three at 5-232 – a valuable lead of 228 runs heading into the final day.
Earlier, third-placed NSW claimed two vital competition points when they inched past the second-placed SA’s first-innings score of 288.
The points leave the Sheffield Shield table finely balanced with Queensland and Victoria poised for victory in their matches.
If today’s Redback’s fixture is drawn, it would leave the Redbacks, NSW and WA each on 26 followed by Queensland on 24 and Tasmania on 22 with one match remaining.
An outright win for SA would place it clear on top of the table.
Blues No.11 Doug Bollinger hit a single to get his side over the line before lunch, but it was skipper Peter Nevill who stood up for the visitors with a sturdy 71 as NSW were dismissed for 292.
SA coach Darren Berry lamented some controversial umpiring decisions late in NSW’s innings following menacing spells from skipper Johan Botha (4-70) and explosive spearhead Kane Richardson (3-61).
The Blues dropped to 8-270 and momentum swung in favour of the Redbacks before two huge back-to-back appeals on a shaky Josh Hazlewood (two) were turned down.
“There has been a lot of talk around the umpiring in this game, and unfortunately as coaches we are not allowed to comment on umpiring decisions, but I’m sure people here watching this match have a fair indication of exactly what’s happened,” Berry said.
“That’s probably all I can say on the umpiring decisions throughout this match so far.”
The Redbacks were led by half-centuries from Sam Raphael (55) and the impressive Tom Cooper (89) while Callum Ferguson is unbeaten on 44.
Cooper’s half-century, which included seven boundaries and four sixes, was his fifth of the domestic summer and has pushed the destructive right-hander to the summit of the Shield’s leading run-scorers.
Ferguson also recorded a milestone of his own by sweeping past 500 runs in a Shield season – the fifth time the 29-year-old has done so in nine domestic campaigns – and will resume batting on Thursday with his skipper Botha (five not out).
Raphael and Andrew McDonald (23) picked up the run scoring until the latter was sent packing in controversial circumstances.
McDonald attempted to work a delivery onto the leg side but was caught behind and given out, despite replays suggesting he did not touch the ball.
The Victorian exited in a fiery mood after remonstrating towards the umpire, but Raphael and Cooper kept the innings ablaze.
Raphael reached 50 but added just another five runs to his total before being bowled between bat and pad by Stephen O’Keefe (2-48), the competition’s leading wicket-taker.
Cooper was on the cusp of a third Shield ton this summer when he was caught by a sharp catch from Sean Abbott at backward point after attempting to play a bizarre sweep shot.
Kane Richardson entered the fray as a night watchman but departed for a duck after just three balls faced.
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