World Cup Cricket News 12/03/03
Report By Jon Cocks
The moist, brownish pitch of St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, was the single biggest culprit in the clatter of wickets in this Super Six clash that was so vital to New Zealand’s two-fold hope of ending Australia’s unbeaten run and securing a Semi Final spot. It seemed made to order early for Shane Bond (10-2-23-6), who reduced Australia to 7-84 (Gilchrist 18, Hayden 1, Ponting 6, Martyn 31, Lehmann 4, Hogg 0, Harvey 2).
However, a magnificent 97-run eighth wicket stand from Bevan (58) and Andy Bichel (64) proved to be almost exactly the ultimate margin between the teams, as Australia ultimately scrambled a moderately competitive 9-208. New Zealand could only manage 112 batting second, having won the toss and inserted Australia on a wicket that offered the new ball bowlers generous swing and seam.
Countering the firepower of Bond on this awkward pitch, Brett Lee (9.1–2-5-42) struck telling blows at the death of both innings, smashing the final two deliveries of Australia’s fifty overs into the crowd at long on and point respectively. Dismissing Fleming and putting searing, inswinging 150 kph yorkers into the stumps of Oram and Adams, he summarily choked off any New Zealand resistance at the end of the match.
Australia exploded from the blocks as usual, with Gilchrist hitting Adams (9-2-46-1) for successive boundaries. Fleming whipped the all rounder out of the attack - after his only over had gone for nine - and replaced him with Vettori (10-1-40-0), who bowled a beautiful line, immediately extracting bounce and turn.
The next five overs produced a very sedate ten runs and the wicket of Hayden, who was caught by keeper McCullum, the first of Bond’s six victims, followed by his second - Gilchrist - trapped in front on the crease. Bowling a superb line, Bond struck again when he drew Ponting forward and found the edge for Fleming at first slip to do the rest.
3-31 became 4-47 when Lehmann edged one from Adams that seamed away extravagantly, to be well taken low by Astle at third slip. Bond’s purple patch continued; Martyn, having worked hard for his 32, went with the score on just 80, Hogg followed immediately and Harvey was bowled - middle stump - playing a terrible shot. Andy Bichel joined Bevan to commence his second rescue operation with the bat in nine days.
Not afraid to cut and drive, Bichel outpaced anchorman Bevan, assisted at one point by an extraordinarily bad delivery from Adams - it bounced twice - that he clubbed over long on for six. The 50 partnership came from 45 balls as both batsmen plundered the medium pacers of Adams, Oram (7-0-48-2), Styris (3-0-18-0) and Astle (1-0-8-0), although Harris (10-1-24-0) was hard to get away on this quagmire of a pitch.
A hundred stand looked imminent, but Bevan chipped one that held up from Oram to Vincent at short cover. Bichel was caught by Cairns off the same bowler, but that just set the stage for the final over, McGrath’s 2003 Cup debut with the bat (3* from 2) and the two defiant late blows from Lee (15*) that hoisted the total above 200.
Fleming experimented unsuccessfully, opening the batting with Vettori (10), who managed a four through square leg from McGrath’s first over. However, he was caught behind in McGrath’s second over and followed very quickly back by Astle (0), taken at first slip by Ponting later in the same over.
With the ball moving so much, McGrath (6-1-29-3) struggled with his line. His third over contained three wides, but closed with an unplayable pearler that left Styris after drawing him onto the front foot. Fleming was looking dangerous, driving Lee for a boundary, but McGrath struck again, trapping Styris (3) LBW and bringing Cairns to the wicket to bring on the key partnership for New Zealand in its quest to upset the World Champions.
Cairns played two slashing uppercuts to the backward point rope, much to McGrath’s ire, so Ponting quietly moved Lee a little more square at third man. Fleming looked assured, playing out a maiden from Lee and the match was finely poised at 3-41 after eight overs. Cairns sought to make a definitive statement, swinging McGrath onto the roof of the stand behind long on and Fleming drove two boundaries and cut another.
Harvey began well with a maiden, bowling the twelfth over. Bichel – who took a hit to the helmet while batting – replaced McGrath, keeping it tight. Both bowlers kept a fairly full, straight line and the run flow slowed to a dribble. The pressure mounted as the pitch continued to make legitimate strokeplay from the nagging fast medium bowling difficult.
Then came the important breakthrough. At 3-66, Cairns (16) looked to repeat his square slashes from McGrath, but Bichel’s first delivery of the fifteenth over cramped him slightly and the lurking Lee swallowed the chance at third man. Ponting gave Cairns a little parting shot as he left. Steve Waugh’s apocryphal ‘dropping the World Cup’ remark to Gibbs in 1999 springs to mind when speculating on the gist of the message.
Harvey (6-3-11-1) was bowling beautifully, as opposed to the awfulness of his brief innings earlier, sending down another maiden. Mark Taylor opined from the Commentary Box that Cairns’ shot might have cost NZ any chance of featuring in the finals, given the final game against an in-form India now loomed for the Kiwis as a must-win.
Fleming, batting sublimely, now held the fate of his team in his hands. At 4-84 in the twentieth over, the match was still up for grabs, but Vincent charged Harvey, only to thick-edge his outswinger to Martyn at slip, leaving all the work for his captain on this uncompromising swamp of a wicket. Gilchrist now moved up over the stumps to stop Fleming leaving his crease to Harvey and the Victorian bowled another maiden.
Lee replaced Bichel (5-1-15-1) as Ponting sniffed blood. With 114 needed from 27 overs, Brad Hogg (4-0-11-0) took the ball at the other end and the breathlessly anticipated encounter between the Kiwi captain and the left arm wrist spinner began. Hogg extracted some turn, but Fleming and Harris (15*) continued to look assured.
Brett Lee - the emerging ultimate finisher with the ball - went around the wicket to Fleming (48) in the following over and struck one his telling most blows for the match, drawing the Kiwi captain into an intemperate hook shot. Gilchrist accepted the edge comfortably and the crucial sixth wicket was down at 102.
Lee trapped McCullum (1) LBW in his following over to make it 7-104, clean-bowled Oram (0) with his very next delivery and repeated the feat with Adams (0) two balls later. He ended the match with a brilliant reflex return catch to dismiss Bond (3), grabbing 5-3 in fifteen deliveries, as the Australian juggernaut marched on – still undefeated after fourteen successive ODIs - towards its ultimate Championship defence on March 23.