Australia v England, Super Eights, Antigua April 8, 2007

How Tait and Hogg turned it around

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Kevin Pietersen posted his sixth fifty-plus score in his last eight ODI innings © Getty Images

Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke ensured a smooth run-chase and another two points in the kitty, but where Australia won the match - and, conversely, where England lost it - was during the middle overs of the first innings. After 28 overs, England were cruising at 161 for 2, with Kevin Pietersen on 63 and Ian Bell on 77. Their partnership had been worth 137, the run-rate was 5.75, and England were well on their way to 300 - or so it seemed.

Then, it all happened. Bell fell, Collingwood followed, and Australia applied the choke superbly, with some excellent captaincy by Ricky Ponting. After taking the third Powerplay in the 27th over, Brad Hogg replaced Glenn McGrath as soon as Andrew Flintoff came to the crease, even though McGrath had taken a wicket in his previous over. The move worked like a dream. Hogg, after going for 28 from his first six, conceded just eight in the last four overs and extended Flintoff's miserable run with the bat, while Tait conceded just 14 from his four overs, and grabbed the wicket of Collingwood as well. Only 35 came from the 12 overs between the 29th and the 40th, and the middle-overs battle had been won decisively.

Tait and Hogg were the two bowlers who made that happen, and they were the outstanding acts of the day, not just because of their end-of-innings figures, but because of the way they stopped Pietersen, England's best batsman. Against the other bowlers, Pietersen motored along at more than a run a ball, but against Tait and Hogg he struggled to get the ball off the square, managing just one four, and 30 runs, off the 53 balls he faced from them. That was largely the reason why Pietersen's last 42 runs took 60 deliveries, after his first 62 runs had come at a run a ball.

Pietersen v the Australian bowlers
Bowlers Balls Runs Dot balls Runs per over
Tait & Hogg 53 30 30 3.40
Bracken, McGrath, Clarke, Symonds 69 74 23 6.43

Australia's innings, on the other hand, was a lesson in how to plan a run-chase. After the start provided by Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, the only way they could have lost was by self-destructing. Ricky Ponting ensured there was no way that would happen. Even when the asking rate climbed to nearly a run a ball - off the last 120 deliveries Australia needed 114 - Ponting and Michael Clarke remained calm, knowing that a few good overs would quickly change the momentum.

Which is exactly what happened, as they creamed 67 in the ten-over period between the 31st and the 40th. In the corresponding period in England's innings, they scored exactly 30, and lost a couple of wickets as well.

How Australia paced their run-chase
Team 15 overs 30 overs 40 overs 50 overs
England 74 for 2 166 for 3 196 for 5 247 all out
Australia 71 for 1 134 for 2 201 for 2 248 for 3 (in 48th over)

Going into their last three games, England have a couple of major areas to sort out. Apart from the game against Canada, when the openers put together more than 100, they've been two down at the following scores: 30, 52, 23, 11 and 24. The poor starts have been a handicap, with Vaughan's form - 83 runs in six innings - a huge worry.

England's lack of wicket-taking ability in the middle overs has been the other concern. Last week's Numbers Game had analysed all teams' batting and bowling abilities during this phase of their innings, and it's hardly surprising that the teams which look like favourites at this stage have all done superbly during this period.

Other highlights

  • Pietersen has six fifty-plus scores in his last eight innings, and averages 83.83 during this period. His hundred was also the first by an England batsman in the World Cup since Graeme Hick's unbeaten 104 against The Netherlands at Peshawar in 1996. England's last World Cup century against a Test-playing side, though, was Graham Gooch's 115 against India in the World Cup semi-final in 1987. Pietersen is also the first England batsman to score a World Cup century against Australia.

  • The 140-run stand between Bell and Pietersen is the second-best for England's third wicket in World Cups, just three runs fewer than what Graham Thorpe and Hick put together against The Netherlands at Peshawar in 1996. It was also the first century partnership between Bell and Pietersen, who now average 55.23 per partnership in 15 tries. Pietersen and Flintoff have been a rather less successful combination - they only average 19.30 in ten stands.

  • This was Ponting's 17th World Cup match as captain, which takes him past Allan Border's Australian record of 16. Ponting is now tied with Clive Lloyd, with only Mohammad Azaharuddin (23), Stephen Fleming and Imran Khan (22 each) ahead of him. Australia have won all 17 of those matches.

  • The 112-run partnership between Ponting and Michael Clarke was the 29th century stand for Australia in World Cups, which is the most by any team. West Indies are a distant second with 21.

  • Ponting has now scored six fifty-plus scores while leading his team in World Cups, equalling Mohammad Azharuddin's record.

  • Ponting's run-out was the eighth instance of a captain being run-out in this tournament, which is already a record for any World Cup. The 1992 edition had seven run-outs for captains.