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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Australian batting power and self-belief too much for Black Caps

Batting first, NZ for a time looked as if, despite the early loss of skipper Fleming (9/14) they'd post another 300 + score. Lou Vincent (90/113) again showed that he thrives on the heightened competitiveness of playing against Australia; he was well supported by Peter Fulton (60/81). The added 151 for the second wicket, and in doing so made the Australian bowling (and at times the fielding) look threadbare, apart from Shaun Tait (10 - 1- 26 -1) who bowled with great pace and considerable accuracy, and perhaps Michael Clarke (9 - 0 -45 -2) who broke their partnership.

The Black Caps faltered a little as the final overs approached, and 260 or 270 looked their maximum feasible score until a flurry of hitting took them to 7/290, which was still a commendable achievement.

History suggested that Australia would not get the runs, because of the magnitude of the task and the size of the playing arena . The wicket didn't play too many tricks, and the Australians came out with their self-belief in evidence: Adam Gilchrist kick started the innings with 29 in 28 balls, part of a partnership of 56. Enter Ricky Ponting who produced yet another dominating innings (104/113). Although the required run rate rose to more than 8 an over at one point Brad Hodge, given another run following the injury to Andrew Symonds (which is now looking World Cup-threatening) , understandably took time to play himself in, but finished with a flourish, albeit not enough to complete his century. He was left not out 99/ 123 but his confidence was restored and, most important, Australia cantered home by 5 wickets with 10 balls remaining. The NZ attack, didn't perform consistently enough: even Daniel Vettori was punished later in the innings, while Jacob Oram's bowling has been most disappointing.

So, with one England - NZ game to go in the preliminary round, who will play Australia in the finals? Clearly the big issue is whether England can continue their form about face. Despite today's performance NZ were not disgraced but they'll need to think carefully about their bowling. Oram is worth his place for his batting alone yet has in this series (and at other times) failed to pull his weight with the ball. Of course there are one or two (perhaps more) England players of whom similar things could be said. If I had to pick a winner I'd back the Kiwis, if only because they've been more consistent than England, but...enough for now.

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