University will be left with one day at most to beat Keira in their premiership decider, with North Dalton Park not playable for Saturday’s opening day.
Wollongong City Council told Cricket Illawarra on Friday that due to heavy rain no pitch could be prepared in time for play on the first day of the two-day final.
By virtue of finishing higher after 14 competition rounds, Keira need only a draw to claim their first top-grade premiership since 1987-88, while University must win the decider.
Uni skipper Mitch Calder remained upbeat his team could force a result in one day.
‘‘Obviously the longer the game goes the better for us,’’ Calder said.
‘‘At some point we have to bowl Keira out and we’ll be going full throttle to do that.
‘‘I think our bowlers will be a handful and have done a great job all season. If we can get a full day Sunday I think we’ll be OK to get a result.’’
Keira skipper Graeme Batty said his side was more relaxed and playing better than 12 months ago, when beaten in the final by Helensburgh.
‘‘After the last comp game we got together and decided from here on we’re not going to change anything,’’ Batty said.
‘‘Last season we had extra training sessions, but we’re a lot more relaxed this time round and the performance against Dapto showed we’re hitting our straps at the right time.
‘‘To make 300-odd in a semi and then bowl them out for 130 gives us a fair bit of self-belief.
‘‘Our season has had ups and down but it gives you confidence that the last few games we’ve really picked it up.’’
While they weather and state of the pitch remain the great unknowns both teams are playing their best cricket of the season.
Uni won a last ball thriller against unbeaten minor premiers Balgownie in their semi-final, while Keira produced arguably their best team batting effort to thrash Dapto.
Uni have won three ‘‘knockout’’ games to reach the final after slipping to fifth spot with three straight losses from rounds nine to 11.
All season Uni’s bowlers have been a standout, but in the past three matches they have dismissed Norths for 49, wooden spooners Wests for 73 and last Saturday bowled 88 disciplined overs to roll Bally for 181.
The Students have found an star bowler in each triumph - with Rhys Voysey taking 8-27 against the Butchers, then Sharath Shailesh 6-29 against Wests and last weekend Mitch Hearn 4-31, including triggering Bally’s collapse with 4-6 in his second spell.
Meanwhile, Keira are unbeaten in six games, with five wins and a draw since mid-January.
They have arguably the competition’s best two players in NSW Country stars Batty and allrounder Jono Cook, who led the way against Dapto.
Batty led the Illawarra batting aggregate again this season with 688 runs at an average of 49, and made a half century in the semi-final.
Cook top-scored with 83 against Dapto plus took 3-47, making it 45 wickets at an average under 9 for Illawarra’s leading wicket-taker.
Meanwhile, the rain forced the Second Grade final between Keira and University at Figtree Oval to be called off, with Keira declared premiers after finishing higher on the table.
The Third Grade Wests Illawarra versus Dapto clash has been put back until Sunday and moved from Keira Oval to Dalton Park South.
The Fourth Grade decider between Corrimal Red and Uni Gold has also been put back until Sunday but remains at Figtree Oval No 2.
First Grade: Keira (2) v University (4) at North Dalton Park
Third Grade: Wests Illawarra (3) v Dapto (4) at Dalton Park South
Fourth Grade: Corrimal Red (2) v Uni Gold (4) at Figtree Oval No 2