Bevan inspires Australia to victory

Australia 225 for 7 (Bevan 84*, Ponting 52) beat New Zealand 181 (Styris 54, Bracken 3-34) by 44 runs

The Australians showed that losing the toss and batting first in a daytime one-dayer in India need not be an insurmountable barrier, as they overcame the early perils of tackling the moving ball to eke out a comfortable 44-run win at Guwahati. Michael Bevan lifted the Australians to 225 with a typically efficient and well-paced unbeaten 84, and thereafter, the Aussies kept up the pressure in the field, as New Zealand folded for 181. That total was enough, though, to prevent Australia from getting a bonus point.

As in the earlier day games in this tournament, the team batting first lost quick wickets at the start: Australia were 34 for 3 and 61 for 4. Unlike New Zealand in the two earlier matches, though, the Australians - who rested Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Brad Williams from this inconsequential game for them - ensured a healthy run-rate from the start, so that despite being choked in the middle overs by Daniel Vettori (10-0-20-2), they were still able to post a competitive total.

The New Zealand reply was characterised by plenty of starts and mini-partnerships, but apart from Scott Styris's 54, none of the batsmen got a score of any substance. The top order, as usual, fell away without making a significant contribution. Chris Nevin notched up his third failure in four games, edging a full-length ball from Nathan Bracken to Ricky Ponting in the slips (7 for 1). Bracken constantly troubled both batsmen with his swing and seam, and soon tasted further success when Lou Vincent shaped to play to leg and got a leading edge to point (38 for 2).

Stephen Fleming showed glimpses of his class, punching a couple of elegant fours down the ground and through the off side. His partnership with Styris was looking increasingly dangerous, when Ian Harvey produced the breakthrough with a superb slower ball. Fleming went for the drive, then checked his stroke and only managed to scoop it back to the bowler (66 for 3). For Fleming, who made 29, it was another start squandered.

A comfortable situation suddenly became a tricky one for New Zealand when Craig McMillan - New Zealand's hero in the previous match - was given out caught behind down the leg side for 0, although the replays suggested that the ball might only have clipped his trousers (68 for 4).

Brad Hogg then got into the act, trapping Jacob Oram in front with a quicker ball (88 for 5), and then nabbing the crucial wicket of Styris, who chipped a catch to Ponting at midwicket, ending a 55-run partnership with Chris Harris (143 for 6). The lower order has often bailed out New Zealand, but here it fell away without trace, and only just managed to pass the target of 180 needed to avoid conceding the bonus point.

Earlier, the Australian innings was characterised by a frenetic start, a mid-innings stutter, and a strong finish. They were 102 for 2 after 20, added just 54 in the next 20 overs, and needed a strong finishing act by Bevan to reach a respectable total.

The innings began with a flurry of runs, as Ian Harvey demonstrated the skills which allowed him to score the only century of the Twenty20 Cup in the English season. The early moisture gave the New Zealand bowlers some encouragement, but it mattered little to Harvey, who took a special liking for Daryl Tuffey, whose first 15 balls went for 24.

After the rash of runs came the rash of wickets. Tuffey started the slide with two wickets from consecutive deliveries: Harvey skewed a catch to Nevin at cover (33 for 1), and next ball, Jimmy Maher was trapped plumb in front. Kyle Mills then joined in the act, dismissing Damien Martyn (0) and Andrew Symonds (18).

Ponting (52) and Bevan began the recovery process, with generous assistance from New Zealand's seamers, who insisted on serving up plenty of four-balls. A total in the region of 250 was a distinct possibility, before Vettori came on to bowl and changed the complexion of the innings. Exhibiting all the tricks in the bag - variations in flight, turn and pace were all on show, with exceptional control - he first frustrated the batsmen by denying the runs, then reaped the rewards.

Ponting was his first victim of the match - and his 100th in all ODIs - as he lofted a catch to McMillan at long-off (139 for 5). Michael Clarke fell soon after in similar fashion as the Australian innings came apart as Styris and Oram provided excellent support to Vettori.

Through this middle-innings slump, Bevan continued to nurdle the singles, leaving all the risk-taking to the rest of the batsmen. With the overs running out, though, Bevan upped the tempo with a spate of fours towards the end to lift the Australians to a total, which, in the end, proved to be more than enough.

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.