Symonds Bludgeons Australia Home

Friday, September 17 2004

A destructive unbeaten 71 from Andrew Symonds has ensured Australia became the first team to qualify for the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals at the expense of seaside neighbours New Zealand at The Oval.

Winning the toss and bowling, Australian captain Ricky Ponting clearly felt that early wickets would be the aim of the morning session due to the early September start.

The Australian selectors excluded Brett Lee from the final XI in favour of all-rounder Shane Watson, adding depth to the lower order should insurance be needed. New Zealand, meanwhile, left out the unfit Daryl Tuffey for Kyle Mills - his selection would prove John Bracewell as either a master tactician or a mere hopeful in the scheme of the tournament.

The Black Caps started in positive fashion, with Stephen Fleming opening the scoring for the day in the opening over when he found the fence from Glenn McGrath. McGrath fell victim to some early stick from the experienced opening duo of Fleming and Nathan Astle as the duo added a quick-fire 30 for the opening wicket.

Despite the punishment dealt - from Astle in particular - McGrath claimed the first wicket of the match, wrapping the opener on the pads for 18 adjacent to the stumps. Two deliveries later, Hamish Marshall followed his seasoned counterpart back to the dressing room as he was trapped perhaps more convincingly in front of middle and off stumps.

While Fleming continued to accumulate runs at a steady rate, Scott Styris scratched around for 11 deliveries before he edged to a diving Michael Clarke at gully to hand McGrath his 3rd wicket of the innings.

Five deliveries later Michael Kasprowicz's recent Midas touch form accounted for its first dismissal of the day as the Black Cap skipper spooned a pull shot to Jason Gillespie at mid-on, with the South Australian paceman taking a diving catch following an original misjudgment.

Craig McMillan - fresh from a devastating innings against the USA - and Jacob Oram set about a rescue mission as Kasprowicz and Watson probed in and around the off-stump area. McMillan in particular looked in sharp touch in playing an excellent cut shot for his first boundary behind point.

Again, however, Kasprowicz proved the talisman for the Australian side in completing what can be deemed as a soft return catch from Oram. Attempting a flick shot towards mid-wicket, the ball floated back to the bowler, ending a 30-run renaissance.

The following delivery accounted for veteran all-rounder Chris Cairns, who was trapped by an inswinger on the crease and adjudged leg before. The decision, however, proved contentious as televisions Hawk-eye suggested the path of the ball was indeed over the stumps.

Alas a hat-trick ball was to follow, with Chris Harris edging past Ricky Ponting at second slip - opening his runs account. Shortly after, Harris attempted a risky quick-single as the ball passed by the stumps without disturbance.

The running was not so fruitful an over later as McMillan fell victim to a diabolical mix-up. Nudging to Andrew Symonds at cover-point, Harris called his partner through for a single before turning and changing his mind mid-pitch. Kasprowicz completed the elementary stump-breaking following a lollypop return as McMillan was not to be sighted in the final picture - only mouthing words of disgust and anguish as cameras followed him back to the pavilion.

The introduction of spinners Andrew Symonds and Darren Lehmann continued to stem the flow of runs mid-innings for the Black Caps. Midway through the 36th over, Lehmann claimed the wicket of Harris caught and bowled from a half-volley that was gently chipped back. The decision, however, was reverted to the third umpire before David Shepard correctly gave Harris out for 26.

Harris - playing a record 246th ODI - has struggled to maintain a place in the New Zealand side since the World Cup, and following his scratch innings and crucial involvement in the McMillan run-out, much of his future career hopes would rely on his deeds with the ball.

Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori provided stubborn yet largely unthreatening resistance in the lower order as they compiled the first 50-run partnership of the innings. McCullum in particular played some excellent shots in his stay at the crease before giving himself room on one too many occasions outside leg and picking a diving Kasprowicz at long on and giving Gillespie his wicket for the innings.

Kyle Mills strode to the crease at number 11 and failed to significantly dent the Australians, finishing unbeaten on 3 as Vettori complied a neat 29*.

Yet again the star of the Australian bowlers was Kasprowicz - whose recent fairytale revival continued to gain momentum in taking 3/31 from his 10 overs. Glenn McGrath returned from his early punishment to register 3/39 as Lehmann and Gillespie each snared a wicket. Andrew Symonds leaked only 29 from his 10 overs, although Shane Watson bowled at an economy of over 5 runs per over.

Given little hope of defending 198 the New Zealanders looked set for a painful afternoon when Adam Gilchrist opened the scoring with a customary boundary. Oram, however, had a plan in place, angling away a delivery to Gilchrist that was left alone. Shortly after, the ball pitched in an almost identical position, yet on this occasion with some inswing as Gilchrist again shouldered arms - this time to the disturbance of his stumps.

The inspired selection of Kyle Mills almost payed immediate dividends in the second over as Matthew Hayden was wrapped on the pads, surviving a close LBW call which was followed by a less than convincing appeal the next ball. A thick edge through point from the final delivery saw the over finish with an unconvincing boundary, as all of a sudden the bizarre logic behind Mills selection threatened to become ingenuous.

Before the commencement of the third over, finger-spinner Daniel Vettori engaged in some heavy mind games by handing his hat to the umpire and taking his mark - before Jacob Oram took the ball and resumed his spell. At the completion of the 4th over, however, Vettori did enter the attack for real in an attempt to disturb captain Ricky Ponting - a notoriously poor starter against spin. Fleming's gamble was to only last 1 over.

The return of Oram to the attack was welcomed by Hayden with a classical straight drive along the ground for a boundary. The following delivery was confidently dispatched over the square leg fence as the tall seamer dropped short on a fairly untroubling wicket.

The introduction of Scott Styris in the 12th over nipped the promising Ponitng innings in the bud. After two away swinger and an inswinger, Styris again bowled the inswinger and exposed the gap between bat and pad that was opened by the Australian captain playing across the line - the inevitable death rattle left Australia at 2/49.

Fleming greeted Damien Martyn with his customary packed point field - somewhat, the killer punch for the plan was lacking, namely the bowler in Shane Bond. While Mills attempted to play replacement, Martyn steadily accumulated runs - despite a scratchy French cut for four - as Hayden stepped up a gear at the other end.

Yet on 47 the dobblers of Harris undid the Queensland opener as a lofted drive hit low on the bat and reached only Chris Cairns at mid off. The wicket brought Andrew Symonds to the crease with exactly 100 runs needed for victory.

Symonds marked his cards early, and after taking a sighter he hammered the first of his 4 sixes from just his second ball. Sure enough, the run rate increased as the Harris and Vettori combination failed to significantly worry the Australian batsmen.

As Martyn accumulated his 23rd ODI half-century, Symonds effectively ended the match by combining with Martyn to add 17 from the 35th over of the innings, shutting out any remaining Kiwi hopes.

After reaching his half-century from 42 deliveries, the powerful all-rounder required a mere 5 deliveries to complete the match and overtake Martyn as the top scorer. In a final, telling blow, he cleared the long off fence with interest from the penultimate delivery of the match, and with a single to follow, finished unbeaten on 71.

The result takes Australia one step closer to gaining a rare piece of silverware that is yet to touch the shores, while New Zealand are forced to lament some poor middle-over batting. The match brought to an end a 10-match winning streak for the Black Caps, while it extended Australia's unbeaten run against New Zealand to 7.

Final Scores:

New Zealand 9/198

B McCullum 47
M Kasprowicz 3/31, G McGrath 3/39

Australia 3/199

A Symonds 71*, D Martyn 60*, M Hayden 47
S Styris 1/9

Australia won by 7 wickets.

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Andrew Symonds.

Posted by Andre