New Zealand's shambolic top-order batting ruined another match which was billed as one of the big ones of the group stage of the World Cup. The format of the tournament means such games, involving two Test-playing sides, are rare to start with, and it doesn't help when these games become one-sided as well. The South Africa-West Indies game was a no-contest as well, which means two matches in two days have failed to live up to expectations.
This time around, the fault squarely lay with New Zealand's batsmen, who put in another depressingly familiar and limp display. In 116 ODIs since the beginning of 2006, New Zealand have lost half their side for less than 100 on 28 occasions - that's more than once every four matches, which is quite an indictment of their specialist batsmen. The corresponding numbers for India are 24 times in 160 matches (once every 6.67 games), for South Africa it's nine in 111 (once every 12.33 games), and for Australia it's once every 14 matches.
The way New Zealand's top batsmen went about tackling Australia's pace attack was quite perplexing - they forgot about the singles, and attempted low-percentage, high-risk shots. The result was a fair number of boundaries, but also plenty of dot balls and wickets. The most shocking stat was the fact that New Zealand managed all of four singles in the first 15 overs, which allowed Australia's bowlers to build and sustain pressure, and work on a batsman for prolonged periods. New Zealand scored two runs more than Australia off fours and sixes, and yet finished up 40 runs behind on the overall score at the end of 15 overs.
Among the batsmen who disappointed was Ross Taylor, who continued a prolonged run of poor form: in the last two years (since March 1, 2009), Taylor averages 28.86 in 39 innings, with nine single-digit scores in his last 16 outings.
For Australia, on the other hand, there was little to be worried about, as they notched up their sixth World Cup win in eight matches against New Zealand. In each of the last three tournaments, the victory margins have been emphatic - 96 runs in 2003, 215 in 2007, and seven wickets this time. Brett Lee was arguably their best bowler, but Mitchell Johnson ended up with his second successive four-wicket haul, which makes him only the sixth bowler - and the third Australian - to achieve this in World Cups. The ones who've achieved it earlier are Gary Gilmour in 1975, Ashantha de Mel in 1983, Imran Khan in 1987, Shane Warne in 1999, and Muttiah Muralitharan in 2007.
And while New Zealand's No.4 is struggling, Australia's seems to have regained his mojo. Michael Clarke completed the formalities with an unbeaten 24, and in the process became the ninth Australian to reach the 6000-run mark in ODIs. In his last four innings he has scored 218 runs and been dismissed only twice. Ricky Ponting touched 13,000 runs in ODIs in which he represented Australia - he scored 115 in one match for ICC World XI - but also managed a less memorable milestone when he was stumped for the 15th time in his career, thus equalling Wasim Akram's record for the most number of such dismissals in ODIs.