Friday, April 20, 2007

The Aussie juggernaut leaves New Zealand in its wake

At the end of the clobbering Australia handed out to their neighbors New Zealand in the World Cup today, their captain Ricky Ponting observed that it would take something special to beat his team the semifinals. You can decide whether Ponting was being humble or cocky. But one thing was clear: Australia will need to have a very bad day to lose this World Cup.

Is subterfuge the only way?
New Zealand didn’t play two key players today: Jacob Oram and Shane Bond, using injury as the reason. Much like Sri Lanka, this shows that they are hoping to deliver some sort of a sucker punch to Australia when they meet them. Defeating them on open terms has been given up by these teams.

Hayden's rampage
Today’s lashing of the New Zealand bowlers came via four fine performances. First Matthew Hayden (103) barely stuttered when he lost his partner Adam Gilchrist early and instead launched into his blistering trademark drives, cuts and pulls. He looks much like a gladiator when he bats – a butcher cleaving a goat in half. He constantly walked out to the bowlers and took them on – almost always successfully. But there is an organization to his carnage. His shot selection is immensely clinical – he knows very early on if the ball is in his zone. And if it is he clobbers it with gusto. All this must come from hours in the nets, I’m sure.

Ponting wieghs in
The Australian captain (66) delivered another sublime performance at the crease today, pulling his first delivery to the fine leg ropes with soft hands. He is batting as well as anyone I’ve seen in cricket – and I’ve seen a few (although by no means all). As early as the fifth over, a desperate Fleming turned to Jiten Patel to stem the rampage. Patel turned one in sharply, engineering a close shave for the Australian captain. Ponting immediately responded by lofting the next delivery to the midwicket fence. It was arrogant, dismissive and clear that Patel was dealing with a man at the top of his game.

After every big shot or over, both Ponting and Hayden conferred animatedly in the middle – adjusting their strategies on the fly.

A fine hand from Clarke
Michael Clarke played the third important hand in the huge Aussie total. He is quite a delight to watch on the field – innovative, joyful and impish. In an Aussie line up bursting with power, he is the rapier – a sweet timer of the ball. His innings made sure the momentum was continued in the middle overs.

Watson comes to the party
The final ace in the hole for Australia was Shane Watson. Coming back from a calf injury, Watson took the field with the Aussie innings in some danger of coming loose – 257 for 4 in the 40th over with Andrew Symonds back in the hut. He immediately got into a groove, paddle lofting and cover driving balls over the ropes. He took the rags that Hayden had left behind and wiped the floor with them. In the 32 balls he faced, he plundered 65 to herald a stunning comeback.

A comprehensive victory
The Australian bowlers didn’t particularly distinguish themselves – often dropping the ball short. But such is the pressure of having to score at close to 7 an over that batsmen make mistakes. And the New Zealand batsmen made them steadily. They ended up 133, a full 215 runs short.

Australia have now beaten all the teams in the last four with them by wide margins. Can anyone stop this juggernaut?


K.F. Sahiwala said...

Too much of about cricket anyways nice blog.

Keep blogging

Unknown said...

Just a little bit more man, then it'll be over. Four more games to go...