Katich and Hayden star in Australian victory
Australia 403 and 172 for 1 (Hayden 101*, Ponting 53*) beat Zimbabwe 308 and 266 (Katich 6-65) by 9 wickets
Simon Katich: Australia's unlikely bowling hero
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Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting shared an unbeaten 151-run stand off a mere 24.2 overs to power Australia to a nine-wicket win against Zimbabwe at Sydney. The victory - which sealed the short series 2-0 - was set up in large measure by Simon Katich's left-arm wrist-spin. His 6 for 65 ruined Zimbabwe's hopes of setting Australia a challenging fourth-innings target.
Set a modest 172 to win, Australia romped home in emphatic style, with Hayden scoring his second century of the series off just 84 balls. His innings included 11 fours and three sixes, and took his series aggregate to 501, and his tally for the calendar year to 951, at an average of 79.25.
Hayden finished it off for Australia, but a large chunk of the credit should go to Katich. Given Brett Lee's absence, the Zimbabweans had a realistic opportunity to take advantage of the situation, but Katich came up with crucial breakthroughs, many of which were, admittedly, down to poor strokes by the batsmen.
When they reflect on the Test match, the Zimbabweans will identify the morning session on the fourth day as the period where they let it slip away. They added only 79 runs and lost four wickets, all of them through silly errors. Especially vital were the dismissals of Craig Wishart (45) - who charged down the wicket to Katich and was stumped - and Heath Streak, whose promising innings of 25 ended in a run-out after a mix-up with Tatenda Taibu (212 for 6). Taibu battled hard, facing 150 balls for his 35, before he was dismissed in an unlucky fashion. He pulled the first ball of a new spell from Katich, but Ricky Ponting, fielding at short leg, held on to the rebound after the ball hit his chest (230 for 8).
Three balls after lunch, Raymond Price was dubiously given out lbw to Katich for a duck, when replays suggested that the ball would have missed off. With only Blessing Mahwire left, Andy Blignaut launched into a belated assault. Brad Hogg suffered in the next over, as Blignaut pulled him for six and then cut and off-drove two fours. But his luck ran out when Brad Williams held on to a lofted shot off Katich at long-on. Blignaut made 44, the fourth Zimbabwean in the innings to get out in the forties.
Australia's run-chase began poorly, when Justin Langer failed again, nicking to Taibu off Streak for just 8 (21 for 1). However, Hayden soon put the innings on track with his powerful hitting - most notable was the brutality of his sweeping against Price's left-arm spin. Ponting, who was caught off a no-ball from Blignaut when on 7, used his feet superbly against Price, and was severe on Streak as well. Two overs after his letoff, he hammered 12 from a Streak over with drives past the bowler, through mid-on and through cover. It was majestic batting, and the Zimbabweans were powerless to stop the scoring.
Hayden toyed with the bowling, and brought up his 16th Test century with his third six of the innings, a huge hit over midwicket off Gavin Ewing. That shot also tied the scores, allowing Ponting, the Man of the Match, the privilege of scoring the winning single and to end on 53 not out off 71 balls.