ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
Australia v Kenya, Group A, World Cup 2011, Bangalore
Australia content with game, after long wait
After a 20-day break since their last game, Australia were happy just to get 100 overs under their belt against Kenya in Bangalore
March 13, 2011
When Ricky Ponting walked out to toss the coin at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, his batsmen had not had an innings for 15 days. Since the Australians last batted, against New Zealand in Nagpur on February 25, India and England had each completed four matches, and Sachin Tendulkar alone had spent more than eight hours at the crease. There are only so many throwdowns from the coach that a batsman, and Tim Nielsen's shoulder, can take.
At the end of the 60-run win over Kenya, the Australia were content with what they achieved. The batting was good without being outstanding, while three wickets from the bowlers and three run-outs was below-par against the 13th-ranked team in the world. But the captain knows his attack has already bowled out New Zealand and Zimbabwe in this tournament. More important on Sunday night was that they spent 100 overs on the field.
Michael Hussey, hamstring reattached to the bone and position in the side reconfirmed, slotted in at No. 6 as if he had never been away. The in-form Michael Clarke continued to display his classy touch. Brad Haddin's innings featured as much rust as a wrecking yard, but it was gradually shed. He eventually found his timing in a contribution of 65, though against stronger sides his slow starts might be more of a problem.
Ponting could have used a bit more time in the middle and must have been furious at himself for falling to Collins Obuya, whose loopy legbreaks appear less threatening than the ones Ponting himself occasionally delivers in the nets. But he played some fine shots in his 36, and can build on that against Canada on Wednesday. Shane Watson fell in the eighth over, but his form is not in doubt.
The main concern remains Cameron White, who was bowled for 2, trying to drive against the offspin of Jimmy Kamande. White has now played 12 innings since his last half-century, and didn't contribute much to the two warm-up losses, either. He has the backing of Ponting, who has maintained the old "he's batting well in the nets" line, but White needs to justify that faith.
He'll now have one of the squad's better players of spin, David Hussey, hovering and waiting to regain his position. And as Clarke and Michael Hussey showed against Kenya, Australia need their finest handlers of slow bowling in the starting line-up in these conditions. At his best, Clarke is light on his feet and quick with his thinking, and both those attributes were evident in his 93.
He used the crease against the spinners, lulling them into giving him half-volleys or half-trackers, and accelerated towards the end of his innings in a most un-Clarke-like manner. In the past year, Clarke has averaged 67.83 in one-day internationals, and when he finally holed out to long-on, it was the first time he had been dismissed in the tournament, during which he has scored 175 runs.
Together with Hussey, he helped Australia out of a slightly sticky situation at 143 for 4. Their 114-run partnership was classic Clarke and Hussey: pierced gaps, quick singles, risks avoided, crisis averted. It also answered any questions about whether it was the right move to fly Hussey out from Perth to replace Doug Bollinger, altering the balance of the squad.
"He played the way that we know he can play," Ponting said of Hussey. "That's his class and his experience shining through. I thought for his first game back in the international team for six or seven weeks, it looked like he hadn't missed a beat. His timing right from the start was great. He didn't appear to be hindered at all throughout his innings or in the field. It's a great sign for us going forward.
"The fact that we've got 100 overs out of this game was a good sign for us. It probably would have been an easier option for us today to turn up and win the toss and bowl, but we needed a good solid hit-out. We got a good, solid 50 overs with the bat and 50 overs with the ball."
In doing so, Australia qualified for the quarter-finals and recorded their 33rd consecutive World Cup match without a loss. And after a fortnight spent in airports, hotel rooms and nets, that was all Ponting wanted.
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