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Australia draws first blood in World Cup opener

Australia took the winner's points yesterday and New Zealand the loser's lessons to apply before they achieve their aim of meeting again in the final of the CricInfo Women's World Cup at Christchurch's Lincoln University.

The tournament defied the weather of the previous 12 hours and started only an hour late, largely due to the attentions of the ground staff who, during the night, moved 10,000 litres of water from the BIL Oval.

What made the start time even more incredible was the fact that the ground is not a sand-based one.

That such a fine pitch, with the potential for some high scoring before the tournament ends on December 23, was available for play was little short of amazing.

New Zealand was required to bat first, but the only real handicap it suffered was the lack of value for outfield shots due to the slightly damp conditions.

Australia's bowling allowed little room for manoeuvre and Therese McGregor produced a man of the match performance which belied the fact she was playing in her first World Cup game.

Her 4-18 off 10 straight overs at the start of the innings completely knocked the stuffing out of New Zealand's aspirations.

But the work put in by New Zealand over the summer was rewarded with a fightback from the perilous position of 48-5.

The injured skipper Emily Drumm returned, once her elbow recovered from a blow which knocked the feeling from her arm for 10 overs, and took the bowling by the scruff of the neck to revive the innings.

She was finally out for 74.

"We were 20 runs shy of what we should have got. It was disappointing to get into such a weak position to start with.

"We had nothing to lose when I came back. You don't spend months training over the winter to lie down," she said.

However, she always knew the 166-9 her side scored was not going to be enough.

Apart from McGregor's effort, Cathryn Fitzpatrick took 0-26 from her 10 overs bowling at good pace while Charmaine Mason took 2-29.

"Therese bowled an amazing spell," her skipper Belinda Clark said.

McGregor said she normally bowls in five or six over bursts and while it had been hard to adjust to bowling into the wind to start with she soon adjusted and felt good.

Clark didn't think there was any special advantage in winning the first game against the side considered Australia's most serious rival and she wasn't too concerned about the target the side faced.

"Whether its 160 or 250, that's what we've got to chase. We've had a lot of contests in the past when targets have been around that score of 160 and we knew it would be close," she said.

Australian coach John Harmer said he was delighted with the efforts of his pace bowlers but that his spinners showed they hadn't bowled enough recently when the side fell into a hole at one stage.

He was disappointed that the batsmen didn't work the ball around enough when under pressure from New Zealand's bowlers.

Australia showed the depth of its batting however when its top order took control of the chase.

Drumm commented: "Their top five are very strong and we know that if we can make inroads we can put them under pressure. A total like 166 is not defendable against a quality side.

"Our objective is to go back to the drawing board a little bit. It's not a disaster," she said.

Lisa Keightley and Karen Rolton gave a great example of how to accrue runs. Keightley, operating at the top of the order scored 44 off 83 balls while Rolton took a swashbuckling approach as New Zealand probed for victory.

She hit the winning runs and also brought up her half century in that act to finish 51 not out off 54 balls. Her power was Bothamesque and could see her become one of the star players of the tournament such is her brutal finesse.

Sharing the burden through the latter stages was Cherie Bambury who was run out eight runs short on 38.

New Zealand coach Mike Shrimpton believes there are three or four overs, or 20-30 runs, difference between the two teams.

"This really lays a very good base of what we need to do. We took a lot of information out of this game. Had we had this sort of game later, it might have been detrimental to us," he said.