Australia demolish New Zealand on seaming paradise
Australia 101 for 2 (Hayden 51*, Gilchrist 29) beat New Zealand 97 (McMillan 24; Williams 4-22, Bracken 3-25) by 8 wickets
Brad Williams took four wickets with prodigious swing
Australia beat New Zealand with ridiculous ease in their first encounter in the TVS Cup - and it all began with the toss. Stephen Fleming called correctly in the morning and opted to bat, and Australia, using the grass on the pitch and the moisture in the air superbly, skittled New Zealand out for 97. They then finished off the game in 16.4 overs, losing only 2 wickets in the process.
The swing and seam movement was so prodigious in the morning that Nathan Bracken and Brad Williams just had to pitch it in the right places to pick up wickets, as they duly did with the new ball, reducing New Zealand to 21 for 5. Craig McMillan and Chris Harris hung on for a while, adding 52, but once they were dismissed New Zealand gave way.
The collapse began early when Bracken got his second ball to pitch on middle stump and straighten. Chris Nevin, in the side in place of Chris Cairns, was trapped plumb in front (0 for 1). Four overs later, Bracken pitched one just on off, on a good length, to Stephen Fleming, who had to play at it. The resultant edge - Bracken was getting the ball to viciously move away from Fleming - had an air of inevitability about it, and Adam Gilchrist took a regulation catch (11 for 2). Fleming had made 2.
The next blow was self-inflicted. Lou Vincent, yet to open his account, tried to pull a short ball from outside off, the ball hurried on to the bat and scooped up towards mid-off, and Andy Bichel took an easy catch (11 for 3). Williams had his first wicket.
And then his second. Scott Styris, who had begun with a confident off-drive off Bracken for four, attempted an expansive drive off Williams and could only edge through to Ricky Ponting at second slip (20 for 4). So how did it feel to lose the toss, Ricky?
Bracken then picked up Jacob Oram with one that pitched in the corridor, moved away, and took an edge on the way to Gilchrist. New Zealand were 21 for 5.
McMillan and Harris then added a tentative 52 runs in 95 balls, though McMillan was lucky to make 24 runs he did make. A caught-behind appeal off Williams was negated by S Venkataraghavan in the tenth over, even though McMillan had clearly nicked it, and an edge off Bichel some time later fell just short of first slip. Would McMillan cash in? Not by much.
The partnership was broken by Ian Harvey. Harvey pitched on a good length on leg and middle, the ball straightened slightly and rapped Harris on the pads. The ball appeared to be heading towards off stump, and even though Harris was on the front foot, the bounce was subcontinental, and the decision was fair (73 for 6). Harris had made 14.
An over later, McMillan played across the line to Bichel and was plumb in front (77 for 7). His footwork was minimal, and he was trapped on the crease. With all the specialist batsmen gone, New Zealand were scrambling to reach three figures. They failed, as Williams came back into the attack and duly finished things off.
Australia went in to chase as if they needed 398 and not 98 to win. Gilchrist, in particular, was in a belligerent mood. He hit five fours and one six in his 18-ball innings of 29, as Australia coasted along at 10 an over. It was too good to last.
Oram held one back in the third over, and took a one-handed return catch when Gilchrist launched into a full-blooded, if uppish, straight drive (47 for 1). Gilchrist had made 29 off just 18 balls.
Ponting was caught behind off Tuffey just before the end, but Hayden had found his touch by then, and the end was a couple of strokes away. He brought up both the win, and his half-century, with a flick through midwicket. Australia cruised to victory with 33.2 overs to spare, duly emphasizing which side was the World Champion team.
Amit Varma is managing editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.