Sunday, April 08, 2007

Australia see off England quite easily

Despite the recent wins England had essayed in the finals of the Commonwealth Bank ODI series Down Under, I was not realistically expecting them to get past a rampant Australia in the World Cup. But I certainly wasn’t expecting the canter it took for Australia to defeat them either.

England dig a hole
It wasn’t as if England didn’t essay a single challenge. On an excellent track for batting on first, England had dug themselves into a hole: first via Michael Vaughn’s horizontal bat offering that guided the ball on his stumps and Andrew Strauss – with slightly better execution but similar poor selection – had done the same to leave England at 24 for 2 in the sixth over. This brought together Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen.

Bell and Pietersen's challenge
Bell has looked good constantly through this series, but has flattered to deceive. Pietersen – of course – is in rousing form. And together they proceeded to first repair the innings and then gradually take the fight to Australia. Initially they played percentage cricket – driving, flicking, nudging and running between wickets for their lives. Later, without quite exploding, they upped the risk – playing across the line frequently enough that I’m sure England supporters must have had their hearts in their mouths.

A score to settle
Pietersen had a bit of a score to settle with Glen McGrath – who had cracked a rib the last time they had squared off. McGrath’s welcome delivery was at a three quarters length. Pietersen hopped out and smacked it through mid on for four. Bell also went after McGrath – hitting him along the ground or scooping the ball over the infield.

The pair put on 140 highly entertaining runs before Bell tried his off-side scoop to the wrong length and holed out to Hussey. And at this point, things unraveled for England enough that they lost the game in the next ten overs.

England unravels
First, Ponting brought back Shaun Tait who fires in his muscular full length rockets from wide of the crease and into the batsmen. Collingwood, clearly playing the man and not the ball, edged one behind and was on his way for 2. At this point I would have expected Ravi Bopara to run in to bat. He was the man in form and would have been the perfect partner to keep Pietersen's engine warm by giving him the strike. Instead out came Flintoff and after struggling to rotate the strike played all over a doosra from Hogg.

This not only put pressure on the incoming Bopara but also prevented Pietersen from taking charge. The cannons had to be hurriedly mothballed and replaced by popguns. England’s innings folded for 247 – well short of a serious challenge for an Australian side in which Brad Hodge comes in at 7.

A chase at a canter
The Aussies chased the English total down with such precision that it was almost snooze-worthy. There was some artificial excitement when both Gilchrist and Hayden departed close to each other after providing their team with a flying start. But at the fall of Hayden’s wicket you could see Ponting immediately buckle down and shoulder the responsibility of guiding his team home - which they got to with seven wickets intact.

1 comment:

Vikram V. said...

Now that's what you call a thoroughly professional performance by the world champions