In an inconsequential Group A match of the ICC Cricket World Cup at Bengaluru, Australia overcame Canada by 7 wickets to top the group with a game remaining. Canada’s batsmen gave a scare to the Aussie bowlers before succumbing to the attack. The Aussie reply was steady to start with before the openers waded into the Canadian bowling.
Ricky Ponting lost the toss and Autralia were asked to field first. The Aussie fast bowlers Brett Lee and Shaun Tait were given a rude shock as the teenaged Canadian opener Hiral Patel flayed them. It was a courageous innings as he was unfazed by the short balls that the bowlers unleashed at him. He used the pace of the ball to get the boundaries, three of which went for sixes. The result was a dream start for Canada as they raced to 50 in the 5th over. John Davison, Patel’s fellow opener, was dismissed early. That did not deter him as he went about his task earnestly in the company of the doughty Zubin Surkari.
The mandatory Powerplay fetched 77 runs for Canada – their highest in the tournament. With this their average Powerplay score in the tournament jumped by almost 30% from 28 to 36. Patel reached his fifty in the process off just 37 balls. He was dismissed soon though as his upper cut off Shane Watson landed safely in the hands of Mitchell Johnson at third man. The run rate dipped as Ashish Bagai and Surkari chose to consolidate the strong position that they were in.
Bagai began with three boundaries in successive overs and guided Canada first to 100 and then to 150 in the 29th over when disaster struck. He threw his wicket away by fishing at a wide delivery from Tait and ended up giving an easy catch to wicket keeper Brad Haddin. It was just the wicket that Australia needed as the next seven Canadian wickets fell for just 61 runs including Jimmy Hansra, Surkari and Rizwan Cheema in successive overs. It was a good comeback by the Aussie bowlers and credit must be given to the way they bounced back. All their bowlers were among the wickets with the exception of Steven Smith. Lee picked 4/46 to lead the pack.
The Aussie reply was slow and steady. The openers Watson and Haddin were troubled initially by the new ball bowlers but came to terms soon as the runs began to come at a healthy pace. At 90/0 in 20 overs, Australia decided to take the batting Powerplay. It proved a smart move. The first over yielded only 4 runs but this was just the calm before the storm. Haddin began the attack as he lofted Henry Osinde over mid on to bring up his fifty and in the next ball celebrated that with a four to the cover boundary. Watson too got his fifty in the next over and a boundary to third man fetched four more runs for Australia.
Haddin took three successive fours off one Rizwan Cheema over as the Powerplay yielded 41 runs. Australia were not content and continued to attack the bowlers. There seemed to be a healthy competition between Haddin and Watson on who would hit more boundaries. Watson hit two massive sixes over midwicket and long on and followed that up with another six off John Davison which turned out to be the biggest six of the tournament to date. Hiral Patel was introduced into the attack in the 28th over but the poor boy was pounded by a brutal Watson as the last four balls of the over were hit for a six and three fours. Haddin at the other end hit a four and six off Davison to get close to Watson again!
Haddin, however, was dismissed against the run of play as a leg side delivery from Davison turned and Haddin could only guide it to Bagai behind the stumps. Watson too was dismissed in the next over as a pull shot that was never there ended up in the hands of the fielder at long on. Both the openers ended up with the same number of boundaries and similar strike rates! Another century had eluded Watson. There must be something that keeps this young man from getting hundreds. Clarke and Ponting chipped away before Ponting was dismissed five runs from the target. Cameron White’s cover drive for four and a wide off the next ball ensured Australia won comfortably.
There will be a few points to ponder for Australia. First up, their seamers looked out of sorts for the second match running. Though they recovered later, Ponting must take care that against the top teams their seamers bowl accurately. It was refreshing to see Jason Krejza answering Ponting‘s call for wickets from the spinners. The same cannot be said of Steven Smith who seems to be trying a little too hard on the subcontinent pitches. They have no worries in batting though Ponting and White would love to get some runs under their belt before the last eight phase starts. They would hope to iron out the chinks in their last league outing against Pakistan on Saturday.
Canada return home after a campaign in which they improved with every match. They will have fond memories of skittling out Pakistan but would be equally disappointed that they could not close out that match. Bagai and Hansra were the bedrock of their batting through the tournament. Hiral Patel’s innings in this match will also be a big plus for them. They have some very promising talent and what they now need is more match exposure to improve their skills. Hopefully, they will return in 2015 – older, wiser and stronger.