Bankstown captain Jarrad Burke became the first player in First Grade Finals history to record a century batting at number 6 as the Final against Sydney University heads towards an absorbing conclusion at Bankstown Memorial Oval.
Burke hit an even 100 not out from 156 balls on Saturday as the Bulldogs ploughed their way to 6-441 declared against a Sydney University side that battled to contain the flow of runs.
Sydney University will resume on Sunday at 4-185 needing another 257 for victory on the final day.
Resuming at 6-312 on Saturday, Bankstown didn't lose a wicket and instead added 129 in the first session as Burke was supported in a blistering innings from wicket keeper Michael Stretton (61 not out).
Burke, who had failed to pass 50 this season, showed a mixture of aggression, patience and maturity during his innings which included 12 exquisite boundaries.
His century came off a powerful punch through mid-off and despite a brief mix up, he managed to stumble home for the milestone much to the delight of the vocal Bankstown crowd.
The declaration quickly followed as Bankstown sent the students in for a tricky 20 minute period before the lunch break.
Despite surviving the initial test, University soon found itself one wicket down when captain Nick Larkin was caught behind after being trapped in two minds by Bankstown quick Nathan McAndrew as he attempted to leave a length delivery outside the off stump.
NSW Blues top order batsman Ed Cowan soon became the name on everyone's as the Bankstown Memorial Oval crowd was treated to a masterclass of batting from the 34-year-old. He cracked the ball to all areas of the ground and took the ascendancy away from the Bulldogs in a masterful display.
Cowan made 95 from 100 balls and at times was scoring better than a run a ball. He was ably supported by a very patient Ryan Carters (40 not out) who was stout in defence and showed great determination to deny the Bulldogs bowlers as well as defend his wicket. He lasted 180 balls and occupied the crease for a mammoth four hours. Even after the loss of his partner Cowan, Carters pushed on as he attempts to keep the students hopes of claiming the Belvidere Cup alive.
Cowan's ability to keep the ball on the ground and play classical cricket shots was a joy to watch during the second session.
His bid for a century was however undone by McAndrew, who lured Cowan into a false shot to Philip Wells at cover when just five shy of three figures.
However that would be the last piece of joy Bankstown would have for some time as Sydney University used a calculated approach that mixed defence with patient stroke play in the latter part of the day.
Carters and Mortimer put together a partnership of 56 that lasted more than an hour and a half before Mortimer was bowled for by a brilliant delivery from Kerrod White.
White who collected two wickets in the final last year, again proved his worth as a partnership breaker by removing Mortimer as he was starting to take control.
White was again the man of the moment when he removed perennial run scorer Greg Mail for 8 as the students were reduced to four wickets down late in the day.
Thankfully, it was able to hold firm until stumps with the score at 4-185 with the match delicately poised for an enthralling final day tomorrow.
In the Second Grade final, Sydney is in command against Northern District after posting 357 in its first innings.
It dismissed the home side for just 149 and in its second innings are 3-49 with an overall lead of 258 runs.