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Not So Easy Victory - VB Series - Australia v England

Cricket News 19/01/03

Report By Jon Cocks

A thoroughly professional bowling and fielding performance by Australia in the 44C Adelaide afternoon heat and two batting partnerships of consequence in the evening saw the home team to a tight four-wicket victory. Nasser Hussain won the toss and elected to bat on an atypically slow Adelaide wicket, allowing England some chance of defending its slender total of 152.

With Ponting and Hayden resting, McGrath, Warne and Gillespie not quite ready to resume and Darren Lehmann serving the first of a five-match suspension, Australia fielded three World Cup reserve players – Maher, Symonds and Hogg – and three not even in the squad – Bracken, Williams and Clarke.

Interestingly, the latter three players outperformed the former as a group, with neither Maher nor Symonds troubling the scorers, while Michael Clarke (39* on debut) anchored the second and decisive Australian partnership (an unbroken 49 for the seventh wicket).

Bracken (3-21 from seven overs) and Williams (1-20 from seven) took the new ball and soon reduced England to 4-40 in the twelfth over, with disciplined line and length in the baking heat. The pitch was not the usual Adelaide belter and Trescothick (6) was first to go, caught by Gilchrist off Bracken.

Vaughan (21) attacked from the outset, but touched one through to Gilchrist from Williams. Hussain (0) hit through a slower one from Bracken to give him a return catch and Knight (11) got a huge top edge on an attempted pull and Gilchrist – running back twenty metres – accepted the chance.

Shane Watson (2-18 from seven) Brett Lee (0-28 from ten, unchanged) replaced the openers and continued to keep the brakes on England’s batting. Alec Stewart (6) had struggled to score and fell to a very sharp catch by Jimmy Maher at short cover, diving to his left and England was in tatters at 5-66 in the 23rd over. Blackwell (4) dragged one on from Watson immediately after the next drinks break and England limped to 6-100 in the 33rd over.

Brad Hogg (2-39 from ten), growing in confidence, found a good line and length from the River End and Michael Clarke (1-24 from seven), in the first part of his excellent debut, came on and tempted Irani into a lofted drive that was taken at mid on by Bevan. Caddick (6) was caught by Martyn off Hogg, but Collingwood (63*), playing a lone hand, raised his fifty in the 44th over. Hogg trapped Anderson LBW and Clarke ran Hoggard out halfway through the 49th over.

Adam Gilchrist, captaining Australia in the absence of the resting Ricky Ponting, smacked the first delivery of the Australian reply to long off for three and a decisive mowing down of the 153 inside forty overs for the bonus point on offer seemed on the cards.

However, Jimmy Anderson (a stunning 1-12 from ten, with five successive maidens) moved one just enough to catch an edge to Stewart from Maher (0) and Caddick performed the same trick to Trescothick at slip, Gilchrist (4) was on his way and Australia slumped to 2-5.

With the humid air allowing a little more swing than usual, the two pacemen bowled an excellent line, as three successive maidens tied Martyn and Bevan down. Neither batsmen was able to rotate the strike. On the Hill, at both ends, the beach balls bounced above the crowd, the Mexican Wave began early and the ‘Boring’ chant taunted the batsmen enough for both to flash injudiciously outside off stump.

Three men defended Martyn’s cut shot, so he looked to work the ball into the on side gaps on the rare occasions the bowlers’ lines permitted, 16 runs only coming from the first ten overs. Anderson and Caddick (1-34) each bowled out their ten overs and 2-46 was the total after twenty.

Blackwell (3-26) replaced Caddick at the River End and kept the ball on the stumps in a disciplined, unchanged ten-over spell, albeit dropping a difficult caught and bowled chance off Bevan at 2-53, which may have been the chance that could have set up victory. England’s other half-chance a couple of overs later involved Nick Knight shying at the bowler’s end stumps from mid on. A direct hit would have sent Martyn on his way.

After Martyn raised his fifty, the bonus point became a possibility, but Bevan (30) holed out to Knight off Blackwell, ending a 91–run partnership. Brett Lee (0), promoted to pinch hit, came and went very quickly in Vaughan’s only over from the Cathedral End.

Michael Clarke emerged and got off the mark in international company from his first ball, but Martyn (59) cracked Blackwell hard off the back foot only to be well taken by Collingwood low to his left in the covers. When Symonds (0) was stumped in a close third umpire call, Australia had lost 4-8 and needed 49 runs from 80 deliveries.

Shane Watson (13*) joined Michael Clarke (39*) and the two 21-year-olds batted with maturity and common sense to milk Irani (0-22 from five) and slow bowlers Blackwell and Vaughan (1-20 from five) for singles to the deep-set field. The run-rate hovered just below three until very late in the tense seven-wicket partnership.

Boundaries were rare, but Clarke hit a Vaughan full toss to the rope and drove the next ball for three. When Hoggard (0-35) returned, Michael Clarke lofted him down to the mid wicket rope to level the scores and victory was achieved with fifteen balls to spare.

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