An entertaining half-century from Aaron O'Brien could not stop Western Australia recording a 23-run win against New South Wales at the WACA. The win moves WA closer to hosting the ING final for the third time in four summers.
Chasing 238, NSW were dismissed for 214 with O'Brien, who scored 62 not out, running out of partners in front of a bumper crowd of more than 16,000. It was more than triple the attendance for the same fixture last year as the West Australian public turned out to see Steve and Mark Waugh in probably their last one-day match at Perth.
WA moved up to 27 points in the table - eight points clear of second-placed Victoria, on 19 - while NSW remain on 14 points with three matches to play.
After WA were sent in by Steve Waugh, Michael Hussey provided the backbone of the innings and helped them recover from 5 for 108 to 237 all out in front of the second-biggest crowd for a domestic one-day clash at the WACA.
WA's bowlers sent down 22 wides, but, more importantly, were able to claim the 10 wickets needed for victory. Darren Wates, who took 2 for 23 in his first state match since October, ripped through NSW's top order. They slumped to 2 for 8 after he dismissed Mark Waugh with the first ball of the innings, and Matthew Nicholson for 1. Waugh was caught at first slip after flashing outside off stump, while Michael Clark took a superb diving catch at fine leg to grab a Nicholson top-edge.
John Taylor then yorked opener Brad Haddin for 18, before Steve Waugh was given a standing ovation as he walked to the crease. Waugh and Dominic Thornely made slow progress before a frustrated Thornely holed out off Clark's bowling with the score at 4 for 73 in the 22nd over.
Waugh remained NSW's main hope after Beau Casson took a well-judged catch just inside the rope off an errant Phil Jaques (8) shot. Waugh made 42 and smashed a six over the midwicket boundary before edging a catch behind off Hussey's part-time bowling.
It was left to O'Brien, who landed some hefty blows with his well-paced innings to give NSW a glimmer of hope before Stuart MacGill was the last man out.
MacGill was earlier unfortunate not to have ended WA's innings on 214, but Darren Wates refused to walk after television replays showed he had scooped a return catch. The temperamental MacGill was fuming that Wates stood his ground and umpire Bruce Bennett decided not to dismiss him. Wates and Clark went on to add another crucial 23 runs for the last wicket.