Victoria have claimed victory, and an all-important bonus point, in their JLT One-Day Cup clash with NSW amid confusing scenes at North Sydney Oval after the match was unexpectedly abandoned due to an unsafe pitch 26 overs into the run chase.
The NSW Blues had been bowled out for 144 in 42.2 overs, with No.11 batter Doug Bollinger's 30 the Blues' top score. Victoria had reached 4-108 after 26 overs when the umpires came together in the centre. After several minutes of chat, the umpires shook hands with NSW captain Peter Nevill and Victoria counterpart Peter Handscomb to signal the match had been abandoned.
The issue of the bonus points remained unresolved until 90 minutes after the match when it was announced the Bushrangers had been awarded the extra point, which has important consequences for the top-three placings for the upcoming finals series, to be played in Hobart on Thursday and Saturday.
The Bushrangers' victory marked the end of NSW's quest for a third-straight domestic one-day title, irrespective of the bonus point.
However, the Bushrangers' bonus point all but ended Tasmania's finals hopes. The Tigers, who face Queensland in Hobart on Tuesday, now need a double bonus point victory to have any chance of leapfrogging Victoria into the finals. Queensland are already out of finals contention.
The JLT Cup finals system sees the top placed team advance straight through to the final while the second and third placed teams face off in an elimination final on Thursday.
Cricket NSW chief executive Andrew Jones took to Twitter to vent his frustration at the way the match ended.
"That is a ridiculous decision and the umps should be held accountable. Two sore thumbs after 65 overs and that's it? Please" Jones tweeted.
"(Bushrangers) well ahead in the game but it should have been played to a conclusion. The drop in wicket was up and down all day.
"It should be a No Result. Conditions didn't change all game so if it was dangerous for one side it was dangerous for the other."
Jones also called for all officials involved to "be fired immediately" and tweeted to his counterpart in Tasmania: "I suggest paving Blundstone Arena lest there be any uneven bounce". He also confirmed Cricket NSW was "exploring all avenues" regarding a possible protest over the result.
Confusion around the bonus point issued stemmed from the scores at the time of the abandonment, with Victoria still needing 37 runs to complete victory. Under the JLT Cup playing conditions, one bonus point is awarded for a team that achieves victory with a run rate 1.25 times that of the opposition. When the match was stopped, Victoria had a run rate of 4.15, which was less than 1.25 times the 3.40 the Blues managed in their innings.
However, taking the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern par score from when the match was stopped put Victoria's run rate well ahead of the mark required for a bonus point, and that was the basis from which officials eventually made their decision.
The result means South Australia and Western Australia are guaranteed a top-three finish. Mathematically the final order of the top three spots is not yet finalised, with WA to play the Cricket Australia XI on Tuesday.
That match will also be played at North Sydney Oval, but will use a different pitch to the one deemed unsafe by match officials. The Women's Ashes day-night Test will also be played at North Sydney Oval from November 9.
The intricacies of the scoring system thrown up by the finish left a vocal North Sydney Oval crowd displeased, but they bore witness to plenty of action during the 68.2 overs of play.
Victoria's teenage alrounder Will Sutherland took four wickets in just his second game for the Bushrangers, while Australia's Ashes pace tyro Mitchell Starc showed he is nearing his best with a sizzling display that netted 3-35 from eight overs.
With a small target to defend, Starc removed Victoria opener Marcus Harris in the opening over, before having Travis Dean caught behind soon after to leave the run chase teetering at 2-22.
That became 3-28 when Victoria captain Handscomb lashed a pull shot low and direct to Ed Cowan at square leg for Starc's third wicket.
Matt Short and Seb Gotch steadied the Victorian innings with Short reaching 43 before he was leg before to Bollinger.
Gotch, unbeaten on 25, and Blake Thomson, 17 not out, saw Victoria through to the unexpected end. Both players were hit on the gloves several times by short-pitched deliveries that may have contributed to the decision to abandon the match.
Earlier, Bollinger, the New South Wales number 11, top scored for the Blues as they collapsed to be 144 all out in 42.2 overs.
Bollinger's 30 - his equal highest List A score - helped the home side recover from 9-104 to at least allow NSW's world-class bowling attack a target to defend.
Sutherland, in just his second game, did the damage for Victoria with 4-11 from 5.2 overs, while Peter Siddle was as good as unplayable with just 14 runs conceded off 10 wicketless overs, including three maidens.
Sutherland, just 17, dismissed Cowan, Starc and Ryan Gibson amid a collapse of 7-44, before returning to add the final wicket of Bollinger.
New South Wales regained the services of Cummins to open the bowling alongside Starc, but they were without Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
Lyon was rested after falling awkwardly on his shoulder on Friday while fielding on the boundary against Queensland, with his absence a precautionary measure ahead of the Magellan Ashes.
The Blues won the toss and elected to bat first with Will Somerville coming in for Lyon while Cummins replaced Arjun Nair. Victoria named an unchanged line-up for the match, with Cameron White remaining sidelined with an abdominal injury.
NSW: Hughes, Maddinson, Patterson, Gibson, Cowan, Nevill (c, wk), Starc, Cummins, Abbott, Somerville, Bollinger
Victoria: Short, Harris, Dean, Handscomb (c, wk), Gotch, Thomson, Tremain, Sutherland, Siddle, Boland, Ahmed.