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May 2, 2010
Australia began to right previous wrongs in this format with an emphatic dismantling of the defending champions at St Lucia, a 34-run win serving serious notice to one and all of their intentions in this tournament. They wear a fresh look about them in this tournament, under a new captain in Michael Clarke at a global event for the first time since 1999 and with some very handy specialists in the squad.
They went about their opening game in merciless fashion, echoing their dominance over Pakistan months earlier. Brutal half-centuries from Shane Watson and David Hussey set them up, before equally brutal pace shoved aside Pakistan's batsmen. That the loss was Pakistan's tenth international in a row to Australia is neither here nor there; more relevant, Australia were very hot and Pakistan very cold.
It was that way from the start. Watson feasted hungrily in the summer at Pakistan's expense and his love affair continued in more romantic surroundings. A little luck initially helped him, two tough chances put down. More help came from the bulldozing ways of David Warner, the pair giving Australia a brisk start.
Pakistan very rarely open the bowling with a spinner and very quickly, Shahid Afridi's experiment with Mohammad Hafeez looked an unquestioned failure. Warner lofted him for an effortless six over long-off to end the second over and in his next, the game was blown open as the pair took 17.
Advantage Honours even
Warner fell soon after, as did Michael Clarke, but like a right-handed Matthew Hayden, Watson simply bullied his way forth. The brutality of his batting has grown but so has, slyly, his handling of spin. Hafeez was heaved for three sixes, the last of which brought up his fifty in the 10th over.
He was intelligent against Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, not always picking them, but picking away each bad ball. A couple of full tosses were driven and pulled and one cut was a cross-format shot. Then, Hussey interrupted.
Pakistan's fielding was slowly unraveling and Salman Butt's drop when Hussey was 18 was particularly unnecessary; the reprieve unleashed a violent celebration. To rub it in, he took it out on Mohammad Sami, the unlucky bowler. He had bowled well until the 16th over, when his length and head went, allowing Hussey to loft and pull his way to four sixes and a 28-run over. Amid the mess, Watson's innings briefly forgotten, Hussey's own fifty came up.
Pakistan were schizophrenic with the ball; Afridi was again poor and the decision to bowl Hafeez even poorer. Hafeez and Sami went for 101 runs between them. But Mohammad Aamer and Ajmal were exemplary, pulling back some respect at the very end as seven wickets fell in the last four overs, including a remarkable five-wicket maiden last over.
That was to matter little as Australia's intent carried on through in their bowling. Spin, spin, spin has been the chatter, but Australia believe in pace and with some justification. Shaun Tait, Dirk Nannes and Mitchell Johnson will trouble all but the very best on any surface. Tait and Nannes were too much for Pakistan's top order and the trio picked up a wicket each in their first spells; Tait in particular was sharp.
Any time the pacemen weren't on, in fact, Pakistan's batsmen looked good. Fourteen came off a Michael Clarke over, 17 off a Steve Smith one. Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq - a little more 2007 than 2009 - kept hope with a 47-run stand but the return of pace extinguished it. Afridi was bowled by Tait, Misbah and Abdul Razzaq slogged out to Nannes and the pace trio ended with eight wickets between them.
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