Australia Wraps-up Game One

A sublime century from Ricky Ponting saw Australia home with seven overs to spare in the first Chappell-Hadlee match in Adelaide today.

The stage was set for Ponting by a blistering start from Adam Gilchrist as Australia set out after New Zealand’s 254, scored on the back of Brendon McCullum’s superb 96 after Daniel Vettori won the toss and had no hesitation in batting on a good wicket.

Sometimes it’s easy to envy Matthew Hayden. Not for the centuries he’s made, the attacks he’s plundered, the wins he’s enjoyed or the quality of his cooking, but because every so often he has the best seat in the house when Adam Gilchrist goes off.

Gilchrist’s assault on New Zealand’s opening bowlers was the stuff which has made him such a feared opponent throughout his career. He may not be as consistent as he once was, but the fact remains that when the ‘keeper-batsman makes runs, Australia almost invariably wins, and wins well.

So it proved tonight as Gilchrist cannoned to 51 from only 29 balls, including six fours and two sixes. Such was his power that Hayden, no slouch himself in compiling a run-a-ball 17, was rendered a spectator before being smartly caught and bowled by Kyle Mills.

Despite Hayden’s departure, Gilchrist showed no sign of slowing down and continued on his merry way until holing out to extra cover in mis-timing another artillery shell of a shot.

From this point Michael Clarke and Ponting decided to consolidate, a luxury which they could afford. When the mini-tornado of Gilchrist departed, the score was two for 75 in only the eighth over. Nevertheless, the circumspection of the batsmen was warranted as the New Zealand bowling tightened up.

Once set, Ponting and Clarke proceeded to increase the scoring rate without taking any real risks, proceeding to 154 for two in the 27th over when heavy rain forced the players from the field.

Despite the length of the delay, there was no reduction in overs. When the players returned, Vettori was plainly annoyed at the state of the outfield, which he considered too wet for play. It was a strange attitude, as Australia was nearly 50 runs ahead on the Duckworth-Lewis equation when the players left the ground and, once the rain stopped, it was New Zealand who needed to play on, not the hosts.

Clarke eventually fell, caught in the overs from Mills for 48 when the score was at 210, and his partnership with Ponting worth 135. His improved maturity for a player still so young is something to behold.

It was left for Ponting and Andrew Symonds to ice the cake, which they duly did, finishing the game from 42.3 overs. Along the way Ponting (107 not out) complied his 23rd ODI century from exactly 100 balls, and Symonds (28 not out) was subjected to an unsettling spell from the luckless Mark Gillespie (none for 72 from 10 overs). Gillespie peppered Symonds, inducing a top edge which was put down by Jacob Oram and causing several moments of uncertainty for the big Queenslander. Symonds discomfiture should not have gone unnoticed by his opponents, and it may be worth attacking him with the short ball before he is set at the crease in future contests.

New Zealand’s best bowlers were once again Vettori, whose ability to mix his pace makes him an exceptional ODI bowler, and Chris Martin whose late movement troubled all the batsmen in his second spell either side of the rain delay. Despite their best efforts, however, Australia really won in a canter. When players such as Clarke and Ponting are given so great a platform, there is almost an inevitability about it.

Earlier, New Zealand’s innings lost late momentum after McCullum got the Black Caps off to a flier. Opening the innings with Lou Vincent, McCullum overcame the early loss of his partner to compile a sparkling 96 from 103 balls, including 12 fours and a six. McCullum was particularly severe in his treatment of Shaun Tait, the big paceman conceding 28 from his first three overs.

With the score at 115 for one in only the 23rd over, Jamie How fell to Tait for a somewhat laborious 20 from 59 balls faced. The wicket was due reward for Tait, whose later spells were far better than his earlier offerings which were pacey but wayward. One suspects Australia’s fastest bowler may have been overly aggressive early on after the thinly veiled suggestions from his opponents that his action is other than legitimate. The wicket also illustrated Ponting’s astute captaincy, as the catch was taken at first slip. With the batting team scoring so freely, many captains would not have persevered with so aggressive a field placing.

When Scott Styris came and went quite quickly, Ross Taylor and McCullum took the score through to 175 before McCullum, seemingly hampered by a leg injury, holed out to Nathan Bracken from Brad Hogg. It was Hogg’s spell which did much to dampen the Kiwis’ run rate.

From McCullum’s dismissal, New Zealand failed to kick on. At one point a score of between 280 and 300 seemed a realistic possibility, but a combination of accurate Australian bowling and an uncharacteristically conservative approach by Jacob Oram (32 not out) saw the Black Caps fall at least 30 runs short of a par score on so small and fast an outfield.

Whilst Tait finished with the figures with three for 59, Nathan Bracken (none for 52), James Hopes (one for 40) and Hogg (one for 49) were the pick of the bowlers. Each mixed their pace up cleverly, and they conspired to strangle New Zealand in the crucial late stages. Brett Lee, playing despite a virus also bowled well in capturing two for 48.

Australia now heads to Sydney and Hobart having dominated this game with the bat. Nevertheless, it was the middle-to-late over spells of their bowlers which really turned the match around. For New Zealand, McCullum was superb, and Martin and Vettori both bowled well. But without the explosive excellence of Shane Bond, the attack lacks potency on so good a pitch as the Adelaide Oval.

New Zealand 254/7 (50)
McCullum 96
Tait 3/59

Australia 255/3 (42.3)
Ponting 107*
Mills 2/68

Australia won by seven wickets and leads the three match series one-nil.

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