February 26, 2000

Australia win again in record style

Australia settled the issue of Trans-Tasman cricket supremacy in style in Christchurch, producing a record score of 349 to bury New Zealand hopes with the third win in as many matches in what has become a five-match series.

The toss was taken under heavy overcast producing very fine drizzle, Stephen Fleming calling correctly again and inviting Australia to bat on a pitch renowned for its high-scoring potential. New Zealand brought in the test debut double centurion against the West Indies, Mathew Sinclair, for the under-performing Craig Spearman and Australia recalled Shane Lee for Glenn McGrath and introduced Ian Harvey for Mathew Hayden. Steve Waugh survived an ankle injury scare from the mid-week match and took his place in the team.

Mark Waugh and Adam Gilchrist versus Chris Cairns and Warren Wisneski: the opening stanza had the same players as Carisbrook - and the result was the same. The New Zealand opening attack provided a variation in line and length from which the Australian pair took due toll.

The 50 came up off 50 balls. Medium-pacer Scott Styris, on for Cairns in the ninth over, put a short break on the scoring, his first two overs producing just four runs. That did not last long, his third going for nine as Gilchrist got the scoring rate back on track.

At the other end, Daniel Vettori replaced Wisneski, whose five overs had cost 35 runs. Removing the dangerous Vettori was clearly the Australians' aim. Gilchrist came down the wicket to the left-arm spinner, hoisting him high over the sightscreen, in the process bringing up his 50 off 43 balls. Next ball he drove through the covers for four more. Vettori gone after one over, replaced by the amiable Nathan Astle for one over, which conceded just two runs, before he was replaced by the spin of Chris Harris.

At the other end, Styris was also suffering. Gilchrist pulled him over the square leg boundary and then drove him through extra cover. The Australian 100 came up off 91 balls.

Fleming tried his bowlers in short spells in an effort to upset the Australians' rhythm. Harris, Astle, Vettori and Craig McMillan were all deployed in short bursts. The tactic was effective to the degree. Gilchrist took three sixes to Gilchrist off Harris, Vettori and McMillan in turn but otherwise the scoring was restricted to singles as the Australians moved through the middle of the innings. But there were plenty of them.

In the 23rd over, Gilchrist brought up his sixth one-day international hundred. The power of the man was reflected in his innings including five sixes and eight fours and required just 78 balls.

Cairns was brought back in the 27th over in time to see Waugh bring up his 50, off 67 balls. But it was at the other end that New Zealand finally achieved the breakthrough.

Harris, in his first over of a new spell, induced Gilchrist to offer a gentle return catch, a very tame ending to a magnificent innings of 138 with the opening partnership ending on 189.

The arrival of Andrew Symonds suggested an assault on the bowling. Instead a direct throw from Harris in the next over saw Symonds depart without scoring. It should have been three down, Adam Parore diving from a standing start dropping Mark Waugh down the leg side off Cairns in the same over.

There was, in fact, no relief for the New Zealanders. The arrival of the Australian captain at the crease increased the scoring tempo, Steve Waugh going into double figures with just two shots off Harris.

The 200 came up in the 30th over. Vettori replaced Harris and was promptly dealt to over mid-wicket by Steve Waugh. The New Zealanders could find nowhere to hide.

The Australian captain's tactics were clear. Cairns was the next victim, subjected to a drive over extra cover for six more. But at the other end Vettori had a measure of revenge, bowling a swinging Mark Waugh for 70 in the 36th over with the score on 233.

Harvey was the new batsman while Styris replaced Cairns at the bowling crease. Waugh gave him the same treatment, down the pitch and over the sightscreen. Next it was Vettori, over the mid-wicket boundary, a shot that brought up the 250 in the 38th over.

Styris gave way to Harris and Waugh promptly brought up his quick-fire 50 with a delicate cut. The half century took just 39 balls and included five sixes. However, he was not there much longer, like his brother Mark swinging and being bowled, departing for 54 with the score at 267 in the 41st over. Harris was the happy camper but any jubilation among the New Zealanders must have been tempered by the arrival of one of the best one-day batsmen in the business, Michael Bevan.

The New Zealand bowlers had had little to appeal about, so Harris gave full voice to a demand for leg before. Bevan survived and promptly put him onto the boundary at mid-wicket. Styris had better luck with his lb shout, Harvey gone in the next over, the 44th, for 19, the fifth wicket falling at 285.

Damien Martyn joined Bevan. With the quick running between the wickets that is one of Bevan's trademarks, the pair brought up the Australian 300 in the 46th over.

Cairns returned to bowl out and Martyn treated him with scant respect, taking 12 of the 13 that came off the 47th over; 13 came off his last, including a Martyn six over mid-wicket.

At the other end, Vettori gave up singles in the 48th. In the 50th he gained revenge for a Bevan six over mid-wicket by having the left-hander caught by Wisneski next ball in front of the same boundary for 37 off 33 balls. The score at that point was a mere 343, the innings finally closing at 349 for six.

The New Zealand bowlers had figures they would want to forget, Harris' two for 58 off 10 overs being by far the best. Cairns and Vettori both broke 70 for their 10, Wisneski gave up 35 off five and Styris 60 off nine.

New Zealand could not have got off to a worse start in the chase for 350 if they had scripted it. The debutante, Mathew Sinclair, facing the first ball from Damien Fleming, pushed at it, got the outside edge and Gilchrist reached across in front of first slip to take the catch.

However, if anything the departure of their test match hero seemed to focus the New Zealanders. Stephen Fleming joined Astle and the pair went to work on trying to maintain a healthy run rate without taking risks. The Australian bowlers helped, offering enough loose balls to ensure a boundary an over.

Fleming was the more aggressive of the two, three fours in Brett Lee's second over seeing the departure of the Australian speedster from the bowling crease after just two overs for 19 runs.

Brother Shane replaced Brett Lee and Harvey came on for Fleming at the end of eight overs but they failed to halt the accumulation. The 50 came up in the seventh over, Fleming brought up his 50 in 13th off 46 balls and the 100 in the 15th.

The biggest test for the New Zealanders loomed in the 16th over with Shane Warne brought on for Shane Lee. One loose ball, short and wide, and Astle punished him to the third-man boundary. A less convincing shot through where first slip would be saw 10 off the over.

However, Warne and Harvey managed to put a break on the scoring, the New Zealanders keeping the singles coming but denied boundaries. Even better from the Australian point of view they achieved what had been a premium through the match, a wicket. In the 20th over, Astle played half forward to Warne and was adjudged leg before. The opener gone for 45 in a partnership of 127 with his captain.

Roger Twose joined Fleming and immediately Waugh brought back Brett Lee. The New Zealander was given the expected hurry-up, short and climbing. He survived that one and a close run out call to extract his own tribute, a six over Warne's head.

The pair brought up the 150 in the 25th over, the arrival of which guaranteed a match, a matter in question with the rain-bearing clouds hovering around the nearby Port Hills.

However, in the 28th over, with the score at 159 and slowing, disaster for New Zealand. Fleming, on 82, attempted his characteristic flick to the leg and succeeded only in picking out his Australian opposite at wide mid on, Waugh leaping to take the catch above his head to give Warne his second wicket.

Chris Cairns joined Twose and the supply of fours immediately increased, Cairns cutting Warne backward of point and Twose gliding Lee to third man and pulling Warne's replacement, Harvey, to mid-wicket.

Fleming replaced Lee in the 30th over as Twose and Cairns kept the scoring rate going at what in any other game would be an impressive rate. In this one they had slipped to 30 runs behind the Australians at the end of the 32nd over at 186 for three.

Cairns continued the momentum, fine glancing Fleming for four and lifting Harvey's replacement, Symonds, bowling off spin, into the mid-wicket stand for six.

The 200 came up in the 34th over but an eventful 35th effectively ended the brave New Zealand effort. It did not start that way. Cairns put Fleming very high but found no distance, the bowler having at least three unsuccessful attempts at taking the catch on his follow-through - when the ball finally came down.

The relief was short-lived. Twose had a swish at the next ball and Gilchrist took a regulation catch behind to remove the left-hander for 35. And Fleming did not have to suffer his miss for long. Cairns had another go at him, again put it high, and Shane Lee on the backward square boundary completed the act to send Cairns back for 25, reducing New Zealand to 202 for five.

That was soon 209 for six as Craig McMillan was run out going for a second, Brett Lee getting a direct hit from the fine-leg boundary although replays suggested Gilchrist had already dislodged a bail.

Parore joined Harris, whose drives through extra cover brought fours off Symonds and his replacement, Shane Lee. The left hander in his 150th one-day international also sent Fleming into the mid-wicket grandstand. But it was never going to be enough.

New Zealand began the last 10 overs on 234 for six, still needing 116 to win. Brett Lee came back in the 43rd over, replacing Fleming, whose 10 overs had cost 58 runs but whose efforts in the 35th over had sealed New Zealand's fate.

In what had become an academic exercise, the New Zealand pair were keeping the score ticking over until Parore, on 11, had a big swing at Shane Lee and gave Warne the catch running back towards the square leg boundary - and towards Harvey, who bailed out at the last minute. Styris joined Harris with the score on 252 for seven and six overs remaining.

Neither was about to give the bowlers anything. Brett Lee dug one in and Styris pulled him for four; Harris joined in, charging the speedster and square driving into the cover grandstand.

Brother Shane had better luck at the other end, going straight through a big heave by Styris in the 46th over. Vettori joined Harris, who despite signs of a leg injury, brought up his 50 in the 48th over.

Warne and Wisneski wrote the last chapters, the spinner bowling a paddling Vettori behind his legs and the New Zealand pace bowler getting two off the last ball from Harvey to bring up the 300, New Zealand finishing on 301 for nine.

Harris finished on 59 not out while the size of the New Zealand total ensured that the five Australian bowlers front-line bowlers went for more than 50 runs apiece. Fleming and Warne at least had the consolation of picking up three wickets each.

That New Zealand could record 301 and lose by 48 runs said much about the ideal one-day conditions and everything about the class of the opposition.