SYDNEY, Feb 16 AAP - NSW earned a crack at a third straight ING Cup cricket title today, snatching a final berth with a comfortable win over South Australia in the last regular season match at Telstra Stadium.
But the 39-run win in a rain affected match - the first cricket fixture at the former Sydney Olympics venue - may have come at a cost with Blues skipper Steve Waugh and wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin suffering leg injuries.
The Redbacks bowled NSW out for 273 with two balls to spare before a rain delay of more than an hour left the visitors with a revised target of 214 from 36 overs.
SA captain Greg Blewett top scored with 82 off 91 balls but it was not enough as the Blues bowled his side out for 174 in the 36th over.
Waugh, who approved of the ground as a potential stage for one-day internationals, said he strained a hamstring while batting and Haddin was struck down by a similar injury when he slipped while fielding.
"The pitch was hard to score on, it wasn't what you'd call a bad pitch, it was just a slow, low one so you just had to work hard for your runs," said Waugh, despite blasting 71 runs off 58 balls in a man-of-the-match performance.
"The outfield was a bit slippery, the rain didn't help there so that made conditions a bit difficult.
"It's similar to Docklands (in Melbourne) I guess. It was just a bit slippery, the outfield, sandy based makes it a little bit dangerous, a couple of guys strained their muscles ... that could have been attributed to the outfield."
It was too early to know whether the injuries would keep the pair out of Sunday's final against Western Australia in Perth.
SA did not help its cause to salvage something from a woeful season, with poor fielding punctuating its seventh straight loss.
That was no more evident when four players ran to gather a skied Waugh sweep shot at square leg only for all to miss the catch amid the confusion.
Blewett described the fielding as ordinary.
"The bowling's been alright in the one-day cricket but our fielding hasn't been really up to scratch for most of the season," he said.
"Today was a bit lacklustre again ... it was a bit disappointing because I didn't think they should get anywhere near 270."
SA's prospects didn't appear any brighter with the bat early when Graham Manou fell to an almost unforgivable run out.
The SA opener was well within his territory after being sent back by Blewett when Simon Katich fired the ball onto the stumps, but Manou failed to ground his bat and was run out for four.
Allrounder Dominic Thornely took 3-32 from just five overs for the Blues while Nathan Bracken and Doug Bollinger claimed two wickets apiece.
Waugh looked intent on scoring the first century at the ground, bringing up his 50 with the second of three sixes, a massive lofted drive off Brad Young over long-on.
He shared a 97-run partnership for the third wicket with Katich, who fell for 51.
Mark Waugh picked up where his brother left off, joining youngster Michael Clarke in a quickfire stand of 77 off just 54 balls.
Clarke reached 39, including four sixes, before sending a Mark Higgs delivery to Mark Cleary, who took a straight forward catch running in from long off.
Mark Waugh contributed 46 from 39 balls before he was bowled by Higgs, who took 2-32 from four overs, while Cleary took 2-33.