NSW’s six-wicket win at Drummoyne Oval has kept their hopes of a third-straight domestic one-day title alive and all but ended the JLT Cup finals chances of Queensland.
A century to Blues opener Daniel Hughes cancelled out the hundred scored by Bulls skipper Usman Khawaja as NSW chased down the victory target of 283 with seven balls to spare.
The win moves NSW to second spot on the competition points table with 14 points, one point ahead of South Australia in third place and four clear of Victoria in fourth.
A win on Sunday against the Bushrangers at North Sydney Oval would guarantee the Blues a spot in the elimination final on Thursday in Hobart, while a heavy loss would leave them needing either the Redbacks to lose to undefeated Western Australia or Tasmania to win without a bonus point against Queensland.
For Queensland, they need a double bonus-point win over the Tigers, the Warriors to beat South Australia and a NSW win or a tight victory to Victoria to qualify.
Khawaja continued his stellar form in the one-day tournament with a wonderful 138 after his Bulls were sent in by Blues captain Peter Nevill.
The graceful left-hander saw off an impressive opening spell from Test spearhead Mitchell Starc, who looked rust-free in his second match back from injury in an opening spell of 1-16 from five overs.
Starc’s first wicket was that of Joe Burns, who was unable to handle the extreme pace of the speedster and hit his wicket after failing to connect a hook shot.
With Test opener Matthew Renshaw already in the sheds – out to Nathan Lyon for four – Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne combined for a Bulls record third-wicket stand of 218 before Starc returned to castle the right-hander with a trademark yorker.
Khawaja powered to his century, his knock including 15 fours and two sixes in his 139-ball stay.
Starc, who finished with figures of 3-48 from 10 overs, ended Khawaja’s stay in the 47th over, with powerful allrounder Ben Cutting adding 23 from 10 balls to see out Queensland’s 50 overs on 7-282.
In reply, the Blues blockbuster opening partnership put the match beyond doubt.
Hughes and Nic Maddinson were ruthless against the Queensland attack, slashing, slicing and suffocating the powerless Bulls bowlers.
Hughes was the first to his half-century but Maddinson caught up as the race was on to triple figures.
But Maddinson failed to finish, out caught behind for 84 attempting to ramp Brendan Doggett.
With Maddinson in the sheds, Hughes reached his second century of the tournament, and when he was dismissed for 122 he left the field as the JLT Cup’s leading run-scorer.
A polished 43 from Kurtis Patterson put the Blues within touching distance of victory before Ed Cowan crashed a cover drive to the rope to secure the win.
QLD XI: Khawaja (c), Renshaw, Burns, Labuschagne, Heazlett, Peirson, Cutting, Neser, Swepson, Gannon, Doggett #JLTCup— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) October 13, 2017
NSW XI: Hughes, Maddinson, Patterson, Gibson, Cowan, Nevill (c), Nair, Starc, Abbott, Lyon, Bollinger #JLTCup— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) October 13, 2017