Lee's bowling blitz scuppers New Zealand for record Cup low
Australia inflicted a World Cup record lowest score of 112 on New Zealand when fast bowler Brett Lee ripped out five batsmen for three runs to give the defending world champions a 96-run win in their Super Six match at Port Elizabeth today.
Lee was outstanding when feasting on New Zealand's under-employed middle and lower-order at the tournament.
He took five wickets for 42 in his 9.1 over spell which proved far more decisive than the New Zealand record-breaking effort of six for 23 by Shane Bond earlier in Australia's innings of 208 for nine wickets.
Brought back for a second spell, Lee achieved the desired goal in removing New Zealand's best batsman at this World Cup Stephen Fleming when Fleming gloved a rising ball going down the leg side to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist.
Fleming scored 48, the only innings of substance in a disappointing effort that the New Zealanders will reflect on as a match they could have won.
That might seem strange given the margin of victory.
But at 84 for seven wickets, as Australia were when batting first, New Zealand looked to have given themselves a great chance.
Fleming said the side was feeling pretty good at that stage but had been there before against Australia.
"We just ran out of juice," he said.
"When we batted we knew we needed a partnership but it didn't happen for us."
Lee, who hit two big sixes off the last two balls of the Australian innings earlier in the game, said that when they had been in so much trouble the plan had been to hang in for as long as they could and hopefully the runs would come.
That demand suited Michael Bevan and Andy Bichel who played out a tradesman-like, and Australian record, eighth-wicket partnership against New Zealand worth 97-runs before Jacob Oram picked both of them up at the end of the innings.
Bichel scored his maiden half century on the same ground as his previous highest score, 34 not out against England last week. He finished on 64 scored off 83 balls while Bevan scored his 41st One-Day International half-century with 56 off 94 balls.
Australian captain Ricky Ponting said the side's bowling had been outstanding, not only because of Lee's great display of yorker bowling, but also due to Glenn McGrath who made the early breakthrough by picking up Daniel Vettori, who was used as an opener, Nathan Astle and Scott Styris.
Ponting said on the slow Port Elizabeth wicket it was always going to be tough for any side trying to chase runs.
In the meantime the Australians would need to identify the best way to play in the first 15 overs at the ground where they have twice been hard hit in the early overs in matches. They will now play their semi-final at Port Elizabeth next week.
Asked what his instruction had been when Bichel went out to join Bevan he said it was: "Try and bat out the 50 overs to give ourselves a chance to stay in the game."
And so they did.
Bond had been devastating while taking six of the first seven wickets to fall. He removed both openers early which was just what the side needed as he further revealed his appetite for Australian wickets.
Of the 47 ODI wickets he has taken in his 25 matches, 22 have come against Australia at an average of 10.45 with an economy rate of 4.04 and a strike rate of 15.5. These are opposed to his career average of 19.97, economy of 4.36 and strike rate of 27.4.
They represent an impressive ability to perform against quality players.
Matthew Hayden's wicket was the first, as he edged a ball behind to wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum, while Gilchrist was given out leg before wicket, to a ball which barely landed on leg stump, although it was full.
With both back in the pavilion with 24 runs on the board, New Zealand had made significant inroads which went even deeper after Ponting joined them when trying to drive a rising ball which he edged to Fleming at first slip.
Bond took a break after six overs and three wickets.
But when Fleming brought him back for the 23rd over, not even the skipper could have expected the results that were achieved.
In his last four overs, Bond took three more wickets for three runs, adding Damien Martyn, Brad Hogg and Ian Harvey to his list of victims.
His haul surpassed the six for 25 Styris took against the West Indies at Port of Spain last year.
However, his completion of his overs by the 29th over, meant the pressure went on the rest of the attack.
Chris Harris bowled tightly again in conditions he has utilised so often in New Zealand and took none for 24 by the time he was finished in the 40th over while Vettori bowled out his 10, for 40 runs, by the 35th over.
Oram took two for 48 from his seven overs, his figures suffering as a result of the successive sixes hit by Lee off the penultimate and last balls of the innings.
While Lee enjoyed his hit out, McGrath had more satisfaction by scoring his first World Cup runs in his third tournament.
But in 25 World Cup games he has only batted four times, testimony to the outstanding record the Australians have achieved in recent times.
A record that was extended in outstanding fashion today.