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March 18, 2007
The minnow-bashing was not as brutal as South Africa's, but Australia motored along like a well-oiled machine and exploded during the final overs to bat The Netherlands out of the match with 358 for 5. After being stranded in the nineties twice this year, Brad Hodge reached his maiden one-day hundred during what was a perfectly paced innings. Defending 359 was always going to be a cake walk and Australia's battery of fast bowlers was too hot for The Netherlands to handle and they were skittled for 129.
The pitch was a belter and Ricky Ponting jumped at the chance of more batting practice. Adam Gilchrist provided the propulsion at the start, but once Australia lost him and Ponting with the score on 116, Michael Clarke and Hodge were impossible to contain during their partnership of 204.
Hodge will be fighting for a spot in the XI once Andrew Symonds returns and he was impeccable today. Although both batsmen's strike-rates were nearly identical when they reached their fifties off successive balls, Hodge soon left Clarke behind.
Hodge finished with 123 off 89 balls with seven sixes, one short of equalling Ponting's World Cup record. He had taken 61 deliveries to get to 50, but in his next 28 hammered 73. His favoured region was the arc between square-leg and long-on, though he sent several over the cover boundary as well. Only after Hodge was bowled by Peter Borren did Clarke step out of his shadow. He biffed three sixes off consecutive deliveries right at the death to make a sprint for his hundred, but with two balls left and eight to get, he took a single and had to settle for 93.
The Netherlands did themselves no favours by dropping both Gilchrist, on 34, and Ponting, who continued where he had left off against Scotland. Fortunately for them Gilchrist holed out on 57 and Ponting (23) was caught and bowled splendidly by Ryan ten Doeschate. If The Netherlands had hopes of an Ireland-esque performance after those quick wickets, Hodge and Clarke gave them a bitter reality check.
The Netherlands openers showed stomach for a fight when Bas Zuiderent and Darron Reekers managed 36 for the first wicket at nearly six an over. But when Nathan Bracken deceived Reekers with a slower ball and trapped Alexei Kervezee leg before two balls later, The Netherlands began sliding swiftly towards defeat.
They were struggling at 36 for 3 when Glenn McGrath was brought on at first change. Two balls later he nailed Luuk van Troost before making Daan van Bunge his 50th World Cup wicket.
All the Australian bowlers used got wickets and Shane Watson didn't even get an over. There were encouraging signs for Brad Hogg, who used his googlies and quicker balls to bamboozle the clueless Dutch tailenders. He picked up 4 for 27 as The Netherlands folded with 23.1 overs to spare.
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