New South Wales v South Australia, Pura Cup, Sydney, 1st day February 17, 2004

South Australia totter after Mail takes NSW to 350

Wisden Cricinfo staff

South Australia 2 for 9 trail New South Wales 9 for 350 dec (Mail 128, Pilon 50, Tait 5-85) by 341 runs

Shaun Tait: made the early running with 5 for 85

Shaun Tait gave New South Wales a scare with a five-wicket burst, but it was South Australia who ended the day in trouble. After Greg Mail made 128 to help New South Wales to 9 for 350 declared, Matthew Nicholson and Nathan Bracken removed the South Australian openers for ducks to leave them on 2 for 9.

Steve Waugh, NSW's captain, proved his late declaration paid massive dividends. Sa faced four overs before stumps with disastrous consequences as Ben Cameron and Graham Manou both fell for no score.

Tait had earlier given SA the advantage when he made crucial inroads against NSW, dismissing Matthew Phelps, Dominic Thornely, Steve Waugh, Nathan Pilon and Matthew Nicholson in an inspired effort. However, Mail's 290-minute, 228-ball defiance averted disaster for NSW.

NSW, bottom of the table after WA secured first-innings points against Queensland, must win their last two matches to have any chance of reaching the final. It remains a mathematical, albeit most unlikely, possibility.

Tait removed Phelps and Thornely, whom he clean bowled with a super outswinging yorker, in the space of three balls and trapped a streaky Waugh lbw before Mail and Nathan Pilon added a timely 106-run stand.

The majority of Waugh's runs in his frenetic 29-ball innings came through or over the slips. His twin Mark was even less convincing, falling leg before to Mark Cleary for 7 to continue his disappointing season.

Tait, named the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year last week, got his third lbw to dismiss Pilon immediately after taking the second new ball. Tait finished with 5 from 85 from 17 overs.

When Steve Waugh won the toss there wasn't a spectator in sight. A couple of hundred strolled in during the day, but there's only one pair of eyes Nathan Bracken and Darren Lehmann will be worried about tomorrow - those belonging to David Boon, now a national selector.

Ricky Ponting's Test squad, to be chosen on Friday, is likely to include four fast bowlers: Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Brad Williams and one other.

Bracken, the incumbent, and Queensland's Michael Kasprowicz are the leading contenders, with Kasprowicz probably the favourite because he's already in Sri Lanka with the one-day squad, and Bracken has been up and down since returning from a hip injury suffered in the fourth Test against India last month.

He took 5 for 38 against Western Australia on January 26, but missed NSW's last Pura Cup game against Queensland with a finger injury. His 0-54 from eight overs against SA in the ING Cup last Sunday was nothing to write home about, but his wicket tonight gave Boon food for thought. Bracken needs more of the same tomorrow.