A strong bowling performance from Mitchell Johnson enabled Australia to cruise to a second consecutive win in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Their second match against trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand promised a stirring encounter but was sadly one-sided due to a poor show by the Kiwi batsmen.
The day was slightly overcast and Ricky Ponting decided to bowl first. Brett Lee bowled tight lengths while Tait was picked for boundaries by Brendon McCullum. However, Tait had the last laugh when he forced McCullum to carve a ball straight to the fielder at third man. The burly Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill carried on when Shane Watson got a ball to keep low and uproot Guptill’s stumps.
Ryder hit two consecutive boundaries in a Mitchell Johnson over as New Zealand reached the end of the first Powerplay. Soon after, Johnson got Ryder to poke half-heartedly at a good length delivery and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin took an easy catch. New Zealand were asking for trouble here and soon they slid to depths from which a recovery seemed impossible. James Franklin returned to the pavilion two balls later as he chased a wide delivery from Johnson only to find an edge through to Haddin again.
Scott Styris was the next to go in the very next over as he too was guilty of playing away from the body. Haddin pouched his third catch and Australia were cock-a-hoop now. Ross Taylor continued his poor form with the bat as he had no clue to a full delivery from Tait. Inexplicably, he tried to play across the line and promptly lost his stumps. New Zealand were 73/6 at this stage and an early finish was on the cards.
Nathan McCullum and Jamie How began the repair job taking singles at every opportunity but more importantly rotating the strike. There was the odd boundary as well. The pair had added 48 runs in 12 overs when How was caught in front of the crease to a ball from leg-spinner Steven Smith that straightened after pitching. Skipper Daniel Vettori now joined McCullum at the crease. McCullum played well nudging the ball for runs and cashing in when the ball was pitched short as all of his boundaries came off short deliveries. He reached his fifty in the company of his captain.
Mitchell Johnson was brought back for another spell and struck immediately. He landed a ball in line with the stumps and the ball kept its line till it hit McCullum’s pads and would have gone on to hit the stumps. The umpire had no hesitation in giving the batsman out which was confirmed by the TV umpire as the Kiwis opted for a review.
A total of 200 looked out of reach for the Kiwis but Vettori opened up after the fall of the 8th wicket. A reverse sweep and a pulled full toss fetched welcome boundaries. He was dismissed by trying a pull shot to which he got only an inside edge as Haddin picked up his fourth catch. Southee tried an ambitious hoick but only succeeded in giving a catch to Ponting and the Kiwis were bowled out for 206 which was not enough on a nice batting track. Johnson followed up his four wickets against Zimbabwe with another four here and is now the leading wicket taker of the tournament.
The Australian chase was given a flying start by their openers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin. Haddin was the more enterprising of the two as he picked three boundaries in three overs. Watson too joined the fun in the 8th over as he picked Hamish Bennett for a boundary to long leg. The 100 partnership came in only 14 overs as the chase gained momentum.
Haddin had earlier reached his fifty in the previous over and Watson overtook him as he picked up three fours in four balls off Vettori. Haddin was dismissed in the 19th over off a slow delivery from Bennett which he only succeeded in spooning to midwicket. With another slow delivery two balls later, he beat Watson’s cross batted shot and castled him. Two quick wickets brought the cheers back on the Kiwi faces.
Ponting and Michael Clarke slowly chipped away at the target when Ponting was lured out of the crease by a Tim Southee delivery down the leg side and missed the ball. McCullum was quick to whip off the bails and Ponting walked back to the pavilion. Cameron White and Clarke then ensured there would not be any more hiccups as Australia cantered home by 7 wickets with a whopping 16 overs to spare.
Australia will be very happy with their display in this game. Their batsmen, bowlers and fielders did a good job and they would want to continue in this good form. New Zealand, on the other hand, have a lot of work to do. It was only the depth in their batting that carried them to 200 and coach John Wright will need to have extended sessions with his batsmen to get them back on track.