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November 3, 2003
Brad Williams - rocked the New Zealand top order
Afterwards, there was a consoling handshake for Jacob Oram, from Andrew Symonds, the man who piloted Australia to this most thrilling of victories. But spare a thought for Brendon McCullum, who had revived New Zealand's dilapidated innings in Oram's company earlier in the day. A ball earlier, he had tipped an edge from Brad Williams over the bar, to use soccer-speak, and the dropped catch at short midwicket which gave Symonds, and Australia, the winning run off the next ball only exacerbated New Zealand's pain.
Five minutes earlier, when Andy Bichel departed, enticed down the track and beaten by Vettori's teasing flight, the odds had been in New Zealand's favour, with 15 required from nine balls. But Symonds chose that moment to prove that there were huge chunks of ice floating around in his bloodstream, with two nerveless straight hits that fetched ten runs, and took Australia to victory's doorstep.
You've got to hand it to both sides. In situations where lesser teams would have been dead and buried, with an ornate gravestone, they battled back to script one of the most memorable one-day matches of recent vintage. New Zealand were 21 for 4, and then 68 for 5, while Australia's reply appeared doomed at 65 for 4. Both came back from the precipice to total over 500 runs in an enthralling encounter, on easily the best pitch we've seen in this competition.
Chandu Borde had talked yesterday of how he didn't share the Indian curator's traditional aversion to grass, and though some may say that there was a mite too much movement early on, this was as good a one-day wicket as you could hope to get. There was plenty of assistance for the quick bowlers in the morning, when they weren't busy racking up a fistful of wides. Brad Williams bowled with commendable fire and enthusiasm, and though his radar was frequently awry, he interspersed the wayward stuff with four wickets.
With Bichel again disappointing, and Michael Clarke failing to reprise his Mumbai heroics, Australia had to rely on Ian Harvey to maintain some semblance of control as New Zealand's lower order ran amok. Oram did a fair impersonation of Chris Cairns' clean hitting after Cairns was out, striking the ball straight whenever he could. McCullum, by contrast, was quite the improviser, picking up attempted yorkers on the full and depositing them to the fine-leg boundary.
They were matched by Clarke and Michael Bevan as Australia made light of the loss of early wickets on a pitch that was still helping practitioners of the seam art. Clarke was a revelation to those who hadn't seen much of his batting during last year's VB Series. He was comparatively quiet against pace, but showed magnificent footwork and timing against the slow bowlers, even with a troublesome hamstring. His injection of urgency allowed Bevan to nudge and push along as he does best, and by the time both were dismissed, Australia were back on an even keel.
It still needed the Symonds touch, but one shouldn't forget the little cameo by Harvey. In the last game against New Zealand, he bowled eight overs for nine runs, and two wickets, only to find himself dropped at Mumbai. He might occasionally get tonked around on flat pitches, but as Gloucestershire fans would testify, few cricketers are as naturally gifted as the man they call The Freak.
Australia's batting depth, and New Zealand's profligate attitude to catching, ultimately decided an engrossing game, and Borde can be well pleased with himself. There was something for everyone here - pace bowlers, spinners and batsmen alike. Heck, even the media loved it. A couple of days ago, one of Indian cricket writing's legends trashed the one-day game at a public function. Had he been present at Pune, he might have seen the error of his ways. This was one for the scrapbook, and highlights videos.
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.
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