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April 8, 2007
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.
|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.
|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.
Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth