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The Electronic Telegraph New Zealand v Australia, Match Report
Mark Nicholas - 11 March 1996

World Cup: Australia's twin-force make all the difference

Australia (289-4) beat New Zealand (286-9)

Make no mistake, Australia are tough as old boots. Asked to make the second-highest score yet to win a World Cup match and asked to do so under lights that are not ideal and on an outfield slowed by a damp sea mist, they flew past New Zealand's imposing total losing just six wickets and leaving 13 balls to spare.

The clinical, unfussy way in which the tournament favourites approached their challenge will send shivers through the West In- dies, who wait for them in Chandigargh on Thursday and remind both India and Sri Lanka that they have worthy rivals for batting that is as pure and easy on the eye as can be.

Mark Waugh, made his third hundred of the competition, the most by anyone in a World Cup, with such control, such balance and timing that it is hard to imagine a player of any age creating a greater impression. This last year has been a good one for ``Junior'', as his mates know him - he was born minutes after Steve - and he admits that his game has found a resolve which it missed.

It was the partnership with his twin, the narrow-eyed gunslinger, that set the show up and then it was Steve's raw hitting in har- ness with Stuart Law which finished the job. Waugh senior glanced the winning boundary and simply turned for the dress- ing room, cool as you like.

The afternoon did not begin so well for Australia when Mark Tay- lor lost the toss and the chance to take first use of a really good pitch which had even bounce and plenty of pace, and then learnt quickly that the capacity crowd of 45,000 cricket-crazed Madras-ites were rooting for the opposition. Australia's choice not to visit Sri Lanka still rankles with the subcontinent.

The New Zealand innings was a triumph for free spirit, for cricketers who were given no chance but who never say die, a number of whom were barely known of before this excellent match. They chose the early sprint to the tape, Craig Spearman smashing 15 from the oddly unconvincing Paul Reiffel's first over and then Nathan As- tle running at the second ball he faced and embar- rassing himself with the sort of thick edge that Ian Healy rarely misses.

None of the Australian bowlers were at their best, the humidity meant plenty of sweat but amazingly little swing, and Glen McGrath in particular lost his way when banging the ball in short to Harris

Almost immediately Spearman drove wildly at something horribly wide and the scoreboard read 16 for two after 16 balls. Not good, nor indeed did Stephen Fleming much improve things. New Zealand appeared bent on suicide, as if the level of their am- bition had reached the last-chance saloon, so what the heck, let's go in a blaze of glory.

Which is exactly what those hitherto anonymous international batsmen Lee Germon and Chris Harris did. Germon comes in at seven, sometimes eight, for Canterbury but here he was at the heart of cricket in southern India launching a blitzkrieg on Aus- tralia, Shane Warne et al. His unlikely range of strokes and his controlled temperament gave a lead to his team and the 50 that came from 40 balls was some surprise. Even he though, the believ- ing captain, could not have thought the left-handed Harris had anything so superhuman in him.

Harris is one of only three survivors - Dipak Patel and Chris Cairns are the others - from the famous win over the oldest enemy in Auckland first-game-up in the last World Cup, but there was hardly a whimper from him then. Yesterday he swept the life out of Mark Waugh's offbreaks and gave the hammer to just about everything else that came his way.

None of the Australian bowlers were at their best, the humidity meant plenty of sweat but amazingly little swing, and Glen McGrath in particular lost his way when banging the ball in short to Harris. The heady batsman, who was now in overdrive, responded by slamming him for six over midwicket and then for six more over square cover. The two put on 163.

Taylor had persevered with his spinners, as so many have done during the competition because the white ball goes soft so soon. Warne and Michael Bevan, with his wrist-spin, were still in tan- dem when the slog was on and strangely Damien Fleming was ig- nored.

But Taylor, typically, got his thinking right - indeed Germon thought enough of it to open the bowling with Dipak Patel's off- breaks - then played a blinder by pushing Warne up the order with a licence to up the tempo. Warne did just so, swinging sixes into the crowd but New Zealand will not sleep tonight having dropped him at deep midwicket before he had scored.

In the end New Zealand were short of the quality that wins against so accomplished a team as Australia. They need not be ashamed for they played the largest part in a fine match and ran the probable world champions closer than anybody thought possi- ble.

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