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Bond, Astle wreck Australia's party

Though this may have been Australia's national day, New Zealanders' cricketers were again the ones with cause for celebration as another enchanting victory came their way in the VB Series today

John Polack
Though this may have been Australia's national day, New Zealanders' cricketers were again the ones with cause for celebration as another enchanting victory came their way in the VB Series today. This one - registered by the margin of 77 runs over an again-disappointing Australia - was a tribute to disciplined batting and excellent pace bowling in front of a large crowd in Adelaide.
While some will tell you that 26 January - the date that marks the anniversary of the beginning of white settlement in Australia - is a time for painting the town red; enjoying very little shut-eye; and letting one's hair down, the New Zealanders blessed the occasion with another excellent business-as-usual performance. Instead of heading to a hardware store; an optometrist; or a hairdresser, they came to the Adelaide Oval with their sleeves rolled up and a thirst for hard work on a warm and humid day.
Returning to the New Zealand team upon his recovery from a wrist injury, Nathan Astle (95) led the way with the bat, lifting his team toward a total of 5/242 before he tired amid sapping Adelaide heat to fall five runs short of a 12th one-day international century.
Lou Vincent (55) was also impressive and the big-hitting Chris Cairns (39*) inspired a breezy finish, even if the Black Caps did not capitalise as well as they might have done on an outstanding mid-innings position.
Man of the match Shane Bond (5/25), bowling with electric pace, then all but settled the fate of the contest as he snared three wickets in the space of 17 deliveries to leave Australia in peril at 4/26.
Michael Bevan (45) and Steve Waugh (30) launched a fightback but received little support as the tourists attained a bonus point and an invaluable eight point lead at the head of the competition standings.
The Australians' problems stemmed chiefly from their inability to restrain Astle and Vincent in a 128-run partnership for New Zealand's second wicket through the early stages of the afternoon.
Vincent, with his score at 23, benefited from an exceptionally tight call in his favour after third umpire Daryl Harper had analysed a series of replays of the completion of a desperate single to Steve Waugh at mid on. Astle, who ultimately passed Martin Crowe to become New Zealand's all-time leading runscorer in one-day internationals, also dodged a bullet at 33 as he survived a vociferous caught behind appeal off the bowling of Shane Warne (1/33).
Otherwise, the pair played largely without perturbation - not even in the face of excellent bowling from the trio of Warne, Glenn McGrath (2/36) and Jason Gillespie (1/40).
In keeping with the pattern of its battles against its trans-Tasman rival in this series, the home team's run chase was compromised by its inability to assemble a truly threatening partnership. Openings continued to be created by accurate and patient bowling, outstanding field settings, and were then sealed by poor strokeplay.
Bond keenly and skillfully exploited the desire of Ricky Ponting (0) to lash forcefully at an outswinger; blocked a busy run-scoring avenue for Damien Martyn (2) through point and encouraged him to drive a catch there instead; and then conquered the defences of Adam Gilchrist (21) with a ferocious inswinging yorker that has genuine claims on being the best delivery of the international summer.
He later escorted the last patrons from the dance floor when he tilted back the off stump of Gillespie (15) and found the top edge of the bat of Andy Bichel (7) as he attempted to hook. His final figures, well-deserved ones at that, represented the third-best by a bowler in New Zealand one-day international history.
Given that Dion Nash (1/31) had also encouraged the out-of-sorts Mark Waugh (0) to play back to him off a leading edge; Chris Harris (2/35) lured Bevan and Andrew Symonds (11) into meekly spooning high catches down the ground; and Daniel Vettori (1/44) forced Steve Waugh to edge a superb delivery to slip, things ran the Black Caps' way for virtually the entirety of the evening session.
It was not so much the gate-crashing of a party by the end.
Rather, it was all but the closing of the door on any idea that the New Zealanders will not feature in the finals of this tournament.