Australia v New Zealand, The Oval, Pool A September 16, 2004

The velvet glove and the iron fist

  shares



Matthew Hayden hits out on his way to 47 © Getty Images

For a while it seemed that all the talk of the phoney war being over, and the real Champions Trophy action starting today, was rather misplaced. New Zealand did a passable imitation of several previous minnows in this competition, and when they were 89 for 7 it seemed possible that yet another match would be over by lunchtime.

Glenn McGrath took three early wickets, but the best spell came from Michael Kasprowicz, who added the catch of the day for good measure - a well-timed dive forward at long-on to cling on to Brendon McCullum's smear. Kasprowicz is a deceptive player - faster than he looks from the other side of the boundary, and a great athlete in the field.

But we did get a half-decent game in the end. New Zealand possess something that the likes of Kenya and the USA don't at the moment - a strong tail and a lot of batting nous. McCullum, who was in the top three against England earlier this summer, is a handy man to have at No. 9, and Daniel Vettori looks more at home than Tony Blair at No. 10.

They dragged New Zealand to 198 - a total that was never likely to be enough, but did at least set the Aussies thinking. And after the first-over departure of Adam Gilchrist we might have had even more of a contest on our hands if any of three decent leg-before shouts by Kyle Mills against Matthew Hayden had been upheld. But Hayden survived, and crunched his way to 47.

Hayden's departure brought in Andrew Symonds, who started iffily against the spin of Vettori and the slowish allsorts of Chris Harris. He has a straight-limbed technique against the turning ball, rather reminiscent of those old films of Ranji and Victor Trumper from around the turn of the last century, and it's not hard to see why he struggled against Murali and his mates in Sri Lanka recently.

But once Symonds has his eye in, it's no fun being a bowler. He warmed up by slamming his second ball - a short one from Harris - for six, and there were three more that flew into the crowd: a savage wipe off Vettori, a flick over midwicket off Harris, and, when Mills returned at the end, a last-over drill over long-off. In between all this muscle, there was delicious delicacy too: he caressed one cut so late that it looked for all the world as if he was scooping the foam off his morning cappuccino.

At the other end Damien Martyn was almost invisible, and it was a surprise when he tickled what turned out to be his eighth four to reach another half-century. Together he and Symonds, the velvet glove and the iron fist, put on 100 and took Australia into the semi-finals of a competition which, as everyone surely knows by now, they have never won. Yet.

Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden Cricinfo.