He's been fighting bigger battles over the course of the last week, and there are undoubtedly bigger fish to fry over the months ahead. But there was no mistaking Steve Waugh's pleasure after he guided New South Wales to an important seven wicket victory over Tasmania in an ING Cup match here at Devonport today.

In truth, Waugh played a minimalist's role amid an outstanding team effort, leaving his most telling contribution to be delivered in the form of a late batting cameo that guided the Blues past their victory target of 250 with ten deliveries to spare.

Yet his involvement in helping the Blues move to within one point of Queensland and South Australia at the head of a congested table with only one round remaining in this season's domestic one-day competition still made for a more than satisfactory day.

"It was a very good win for us," said Waugh after the game.

"The batting, in particular, was consistent all the way through. It was a very good chase.

"A score of 250 always represents a big chase. If you lose early wickets (pursuing a target of that size), you're always pressure. So I'm very pleased with the way we won the game."

It has been an unusual week for the national captain, what with Australia's failure to qualify for a home one-day international finals series for only the third time in 22 years having been followed by a hostile exchange with the press. That the run-in later spilled over in a series of articles questioning his longevity and challenging his legitimacy to any extension of his role as the country's one-day leader only added to the drama.

If signs of his mortality are manifest, though, then he found a good way of masking them here as he helped the Blues negate the effect of a good Tasmanian start and register an impressive win. At a moment of potential vulnerability, his leadership was as ruthless as ever.

From a national point of view, Waugh was also able to derive pleasure from the play of an opponent.

Before today, he had not been formally introduced to Shane Watson, Tasmania's exciting 20-year-old all-rounder and a member of the Test squad that he will be taking to South Africa later this week. But he gained a pretty good insight into the youngster's prodigious talents in the space of just seven hours as he watched him compose an excellent 96 and snare the wicket of Mark Waugh (60) amid a tight spell with the ball.

Watson is a young man in a hurry, and it seems that he doesn't mind cutting down a few tall poppies if it quickens the passage to his destination. He was forced into a cautious mindset early in dealing with the furious pace of national fast bowler Brett Lee (1/34), whose deliveries only intensified in velocity with each gust of a southerly breeze howling at his back. But, after overcoming Lee's fire, he helped himself to his highest limited-overs score at domestic level with a mixture of scorching drives, cuts and pulls.

With opener Michael Dighton (52) and fellow all-rounder Scott Kremerskothen (43*), he also made a mess of the leg spin of Stuart MacGill (1/72), and pace bowlers Stuart Clark (0/44) and Nathan Bracken (3/49) were similarly rendered less effective than normal.

Though collected on an excellent batting surface, the Tasmanians' total of 7/249 represented an excellent return in the absence of the injured Ricky Ponting and Jamie Cox, their two most respected batsmen. Also welcome was the touch of stand-in captain Daniel Marsh, who won the toss - under sunny skies and in front of an excellent crowd of 4907 - where Ponting and Cox had been unable to achieve that feat as many as 12 of 15 times between them this season.

Missed run outs, and a dropped catch that allowed Dighton to dodge a bullet at 19 helped too.

But the favour was rapidly returned when Marsh spilled an early chance at slip as Corey Richards (60) and Mark Waugh embarked on an opening partnership of 116 in a brisk start to the reply. Their association went a long way toward shaping the game's fate.

New South Wales even appeared to have an eye on the extraction of a bonus point by the time that Richards lobbed a catch to mid on to help cap an encouraging return to state ranks for Gerard Denton (1/53) after 14 months away because of a back injury.

It zoomed more clearly into focus as Nathan Pilon (28) - playing in his first domestic one-day match in the absence of the injured Brad Haddin - arrived with a licence to throw caution to the howling breezes.

But, once Watson (1/43) had lured Richards' fellow opener into outside edging a leg cutter, the Blues appeared intent merely on moving to within a point of the competition lead.

Alas, all that was left was for Michael Bevan (62*) to join with Steve Waugh (32*) in a cool, methodical stand that ended the game.