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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hayden reigns, then it pours

We'll need to wait another day to see whether the West Indies can score 323 in 50 overs to defeat Australia in the rain- interrupted opening Super Eight match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua .

Once again the team winning the toss put the other in, though the forecast rain (yet again) provided some justification for doing so. Australia took some time adjusting to a ground larger than the one at St Kitts where they'd played their group matches, and opened cautiously. Adam Gilchrist was out early, but Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden consolidated. Ponting was run out by Ramnaresh Sarwan's side on throw for a bustling 35/36b: 2 /76 (14.4 overs) with, unlike the South Africa game, no fireworks from Hayden , who was at that point 25 / 43b.

Thereafter he moved up two (at least) gears. In partnerships with Michael Clarke and, briefly, others , he bludgeoned the bowling (which wasn't that bad) and in 100 balls he added 133 of a team total of 221/195b. Shane Watson did what the late innings situation demanded: his 33/26bcameo took the total to 6/322 after 50 overs. The last 6 overs produced 74 runs.

Watching it on TV (thanks Channel 9), with its plethora of in your face close ups of the batters (provided sometimes at the expense of picking up action in the outfield eg possible chances), you could see the concentration, determination and, when, as he swatted the bowling with increasing frequency, satisfaction reflected in Hayden's face. Once or twice the cameras showed the great Sir (no offence, but that title still doesn't sound right) Vivian Richards himself in the stands. He would have been disappointed by his team's performance but he would surely have acknowledged Hayden's innings as one he might have played himself.

Will the West Indies be able to score more than a run a ball and win the game? It'll be a tough call against a good Australian attack, but not impossible if someone (B C Lara?) can compile a large score. Lara is starting to show his age in the field but, as an admirer of his batting who has seen him play some very good innings, I wouldn't say it's impossible.


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