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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Australian aggression lays ghosts of recent meetings with NZ

Australia produced an awe-inspiring performance to defeat an understrength New Zealand by 215 runs in Grenada.

Yes, with the semi-final order of battle more or less confirmed, in theory there was little hanging on this match, but Australia used the opportunity to send a message to all the remaining teams that they are still the ones to beat. Unlike their last three meetings with Australia, most of the Black Caps threw in the towel when they tried to chase 349. A poor decision against Stephen Fleming didn't get the innings off to an ideal start but, apart from Peter Fulton, last out for 62/72b, and a breezy 27/22b from Scott Styris the others couldn't handle the Aussie attack in which Brad Hogg 4/29, Shaun Tait 3/32 and Glenn McGrath 2/25 were outstanding. Does any other team have an attack to match? Perhaps Sri Lanka; certainly not South Africa.

The Black Caps' batting surrender followed Australia's pummelling of an attack weakened by Shane Bond's late withdrawal (and Jacob Oram's earlier one, though his absence from the bowling crease should have been easier to cover). The openers, Michael Mason and James Franklin, were, despite the latter's 3 wickets, out of their depth and, while some of the others bowled the occasional good ball (Jeetan Patel looked better than Daniel Vettori), the Australians treated them with disdain. Matthew Hayden (103/100b), Ricky Ponting (66/70b), Michaels Clarke (49/46b) and Hussey (37/44b) and, at the end, Shane Watson with a devastating 65no/32b swept all aside to post 6/348 from the 50 overs.

Note, for future reference, that Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds contributed 12 between them. What might this presage for the finals?

To my bleary eyes the 48th over encapsulated the difference between the teams. With his first delivery Gillespie (never the most penetrating of bowlers) bowled Hussey with a no ball. A leg bye came off the next, and first legitimate, ball. The rest of the over, with Watson on strike, yielded 62446. Enough said?

For the statistically inclined, or merely curious, S Rajesh and H R Gopalakrishna's Cricinfo stats summary is, as usual, worth perusing. Their analysis of Hayden's innings and how the NZ bowlers approached (attacked is the wrong word) him is very instructive. They also provide more evidence to support the claim that Jeehan Patel was by far the best Kiwi bowler.

Scorecard
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