New South Wales 8 for 264 (Maddinson 85, Cruickshank 61, Richardson 6-51) beat South Australia 8 for 208 (Ferguson 78, Sandhu 3-50, Zampa 3-55) by 56 runs
Nic Maddinson, Adam Zampa and Gurinder Sandhu showcased their considerable talents to deliver New South Wales a bonus-point victory over South Australia's final aspirants in the domestic limited overs match at the SCG.
SA had entered the match needing to win one of two games over the Blues to guarantee their spot in the tournament decider, but were second best by a distance in Sydney, leaving them with it all to do in Sunday's return bout at Adelaide Oval.
For much of this summer Maddinson's best batting touch has deserted him, in keeping with a season that had the Blues well out of contention for the final before this match. But he was crispness itself for much of his afternoon innings, setting NSW on the path to a strong total.
After Sandhu's early incisions, Zampa kept SA's middle order quiet with his array of leg breaks and variations. He then snapped up the wickets of Johan Botha and Kane Richardson to ensure the visitors would fall short.
Richardson deserved better after plucking six NSW wickets in his 13 overs, another striking analysis to follow his premium purchase for this year's IPL. Callum Ferguson scrounged 78 but was afflicted by a groin problem, which may yet rule him out of Australia A's matches against the England Lions.
The Redbacks made a halting start to their pursuit when Tim Ludeman touched a Trent Copeland away swinger behind. Sandhu's bounce accounted for Michael Klinger and Travis Head, leaving Ferguson and Dan Christian to attempt a salvage operation.
Ferguson played neatly but was soon hobbling, and stands of 60 with Christian and 62 with Alex Ross were kept from blossoming fully by neat bowling from the young legspinner Zampa. The handicap of injury ultimately proved too much for Ferguson, who scooped Copeland to the NSW captain Ben Rohrer.
Richardson landed a few late blows, but Zampa's return brought his demise alongside Botha's, and the match petered out to the unedifying sight of SA's tail trying to bat out the innings. The final over of the evening was a maiden.
SA had made a decent start in the field, Richardson nipping out David Dawson before Scott Henry picked out deep midwicket when trying to swing Jake Haberfield for a boundary. However Maddinson and Tim Cruickshank would establish a strong union, pushing the Blues towards a staunch total on a pitch that played better than its dry appearance suggested.
Maddinson's first scoring stroke was a six cut cleanly over gully, and it would turn out to be a fitting start to an innings in which he cleared the rope seven times in all. Nevertheless this was not the innings of an agricultural basher, Maddinson's strokes played crisply and correctly, underlining the talent he possesses.
Having made a century in the Blues' recent Sheffield Shield win over Tasmania in Hobart, Maddinson's strong form was welcome, after he struggled badly in the first half of the season. In the end he was to fall short of a hundred here, bowled as he drew back to blaze at Richardson.
That dismissal brought a change to the tone of the innings, as Richardson surged into the hosts' tail with bowling of pace and accuracy. His rising fortunes contrasted with those of the legspinner Cullen Bailey, who was taken for 43 in four overs, including one of the batting Powerplay that went for 19 - an over Botha might have delivered.