NEWCASTLE District Cricket Association player of the year Joseph Price starred with the ball on what was a "topsy-turvy" opening day of the first-grade final featuring three distinctly different sessions.
Wests claimed 7-37 by lunch at Harker Oval on Friday, Belmont didn't lose a wicket for the next two hours but once dismissed after tea they turned around and took three late scalps of an almost reversed batting order.
It leaves the Rosellas 3-17 in pursuit of Belmont's 107 with play in the 2020-21 decider continuing on Saturday.
"It was an interesting day," Belmont captain Marcus Hainsworth said after stumps.
"We were 7-35 and I thought we were going to be shaking hands tonight at one stage. So to think they're 90 runs away potentially and we're seven good balls away. There's a lot of cricket to be played."
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Price, who hasn't padded up yet, finished with 5-26 from 20.1 overs striking at both ends of the innings. Four of his scalps were either bowled or leg before and he recorded eight maidens.
"These games he [Price] just takes it upon himself," Wests skipper James King said.
Belmont won the toss and elected to bat with the New Lambton venue given extra time to recover from recent rainfall after last weekend was completely washed out.
The visitors suffered two mini collapses of 3-6 and 4-8.
However, a 61-run partnership for the eighth wicket between the youngest and oldest members of the side kept Belmont in the contest.
NDCA under-16 player of the year Joseph Gillard (31 not out) and stalwart Jace Lawson (37) faced a combined 308 deliveries and spent almost two-and-a-half hours together at the crease.
The duo absorbed plenty of pressure, wrestled back some momentum and eventually gave Belmont a three-figure total to defend.
"The old bull and the young bull. Joey's obviously got huge potential and Jace is the veteran," Hainsworth said.
"Thinking that we were going to be bowling just after lunch to then having a crack for 10 overs just changes the whole game.
"It's a position that we feel like we've been in all year. We get ourselves in trouble and guys just manage to get us out. They respond brilliantly."
Left-arm paceman Lawson backed up his efforts with the new rock, picking up 2-12 from five overs. Dan Bailey (1-5) got the other wicket.
Wests used several night watchmen with Brad Aldous and Aaron Bills not out.
Recognised batsmen King, Price, Josh Emerton and Aaron Wivell remain in the sheds.
"Only 10 overs tonight we weren't going to achieve much, so we thought we'd try and get through as unscathed as we could but it didn't really go our way," King said.
Earlier on day one Aldous (2-27), Tom Allen (1-7), Bills (1-20) and Jeremy Nunan (1-20) chipped in.
"I thought all the boys bowled brilliantly," King said.
He described the encounter so far as "topsy-turvy".
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