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The Electronic Telegraph Warne Helps Australia Mount The Great Escape
By Mark Nicholas in Chandigarh - 15 March 1996

West Indian nerve fails at crucial moment in semi-final

Australia (207-8) beat West Indies (202) by 5 runs

IN AN atmosphere as highly charged and as dramatic as any could possibly be, and with astonishing reserves of discipline and self belief, Australia won a place in the World Cup final on Sunday. They will play Sri Lanka, who, ironically, they had chosen to avoid in the first week of the tournament.

The triumph came by five runs and, it must be said, with the assistance of a woeful West Indian middle order who sunk without trace during a collapse in which they lost eight wickets for 37 runs in just over seven overs.

Chandigarh, the northern outpost of Indian cricket, can never have seen the like and the crowd watched in disbelief as the scrapping, never-say-die Australians hauled themselves back from oblivion. When Damien Fleming hit Courtney Walsh's off-stump to finish the job, his team-mates leapt upon him with uncharacteristic but understandable emotion.

It was a match of two lots of 10 overs, the first at the start of the day when the West Indian fast bowlers discovered their pace and direction and reduced Australia to a hopeless 15 for four; the second at the end of the day when Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Fleming held their nerve and rejoiced in the knowledge that the West Indies had lost theirs.

Only Richie Richardson, as he has done for the whole of this most traumatic month, could rise above his team's fragility of mind, and he was left alone, unbeaten on 49, to seek respite in his retirement. All the while Richardson's opposite number, the cool, intelligent Mark Taylor, waited patiently for his moment and then, with aces like Warne, who took three for six in the closing moments, up his sleeve, moved for the kill.

The West Indies, having rid themselves of the big guns, must have thought the game was won

Taylor had won the toss in the afternoon sunshine, but had watched with concern from the non-striker's end as Curtly Ambrose immediately exploited the life in a pitch with patchy grass.

When Ambrose is good he is very good, and the clearest sign of his mood is the high pump of those long, slim legs and the exaggeration of his follow-through. Both were on show from the off as the game's opening delivery roared back off the seam and over middle stump. The second caught Mark Waugh, the biggest prize, rooted to his crease.

Not that Taylor had long to digest Ambrose, for he cut unwisely at Ian Bishop, who had been given the new ball for the first time in the competition. Ambrose was delighted at the support and promptly dealt with Ricky Ponting in exactly the way he had previously dealt with Waugh. Bishop, in on the act, bowled accurately and with swing before forcing the other Waugh to play on. The West Indies, having rid themselves of the big guns, must have thought the game was won.

Neither Stuart Law nor Michael Bevan agreed and their partnership of 138, which coincided with a slide in the standard of their opponents' out-cricket, gave their side a lifeline. Their inventive strokes and sharp running were complemented by the competitive Ian Healy, who got some meaty hits away to the leg-side boundary while adding his usual sting to the tail.

In contrast the West Indies were away comfortably with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, compact and gritty, punching straight down the ground and Brian Lara, driving and cutting square of the wicket with his usual flourish. Lara's even innings - 45 from 45 balls - contained just five boundaries, which was due more to the lush, slow outfield than any lack of timing. It needed a fine delivery, a slower leg cutter from that man Steve Waugh, to end his committed and attractive play.

The worst culprit was Keith Arthurton, who slogged wildly and finished the tournament with just two runs

Chanderpaul continued smoothly, and Richardson began his normal defiance of anything Australian. The captain coped best with Warne, and since his team needed just 47 from their final 10 overs he could justifiably feel confident.

Little did he know. Inexplicably Chanderpaul drove indiscreetly at McGrath, whose aggressive and tidy spell, his best of the tournament, was having its effect. Straight away Roger Harper played all around a straight one and Ottis Gibson, who had a miserable match, edged an unnecessary swipe.

Jimmy Adams, whose experienced head should have been at the crease earlier, was enclosed by the preying Taylor and, unable to find a run, he hit across the line of a fully pitched leg break. The worst culprit was Keith Arthurton, who slogged wildly and finished the tournament with just two runs to his name.

Now the wheels were coming off. Bishop, having driven his first ball for three, missed his second and as the last over began, 10 were needed. Richardson swung for four and, risking a single next ball, watched Ambrose run out by Healy by the narrowest of verdicts from the third umpire. It was breathless, brainless stuff summed up by Walsh barely looking at the final ball of the evening which he missed.

Man of the match: S K Warne

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk