Hayden & rain take centre stage

Matthew Hayden and the weather stole the show on the opening day of the World Cup Super Eight round. Hayden struck an explosive 158, setting up Australia’s 322 for 6, then the rains washed out the second half of play.

Having taken 18 balls to get off the mark, Hayden quickly found his feet and timed his innings to perfection. The left-hander mixed in delicate late cuts with brutal lofted strokes and thrilled the audience in compiling his hundred off 110 balls. Upon reaching his milestone he merely accelerated, and climbed to 158 from 143 balls before perishing to the bowling of Dwayne Bravo.

The West Indies opening bowlers started well early in the day, backing Lara’s decision to bowl first on the virgin pitch. The sparse crowd at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium was quickly in full voice, as Adam Gilchrist was caught behind off the impressive Daren Powell. Pace and accuracy were on display by the Jamaican seamer, and Powell was indeed the pick of bowlers on display show. For his efforts he was rewarded with figures of 2-53, far superior to his countryman and new ball partner, Jerome Taylor – 10-0-67-0.

The fall of Gilchrist stated entry for Ricky Ponting, and he looked in mean form at the outset. His average barely greater than 30 against the West Indies, Ponting set about to improve his record in emphatic fashion. He broke the shackles of Powell with a hooked six and strolled to 35. But an error in running judgment introduced his demise. Ramnaresh Sarwan displayed great agility in executing the run out.

Michael Clarke took his captain’s place at the crease and he too quickly eased into stride. While Hayden was finding his feet at the other end, Clarke never looked troubled. The two advanced effortlessly and added 98 for the third wicket. Bravo then produced a sharp delivery to snare Clarke for 41, and Australia showed signs of collapse with the quick loss of Andrew Symonds (13) and Michael Hussey (9). Hayden was hardly perturbed.

Just three days on from his breathtaking and record-breaking ton against South Africa – he needed just 66 balls then – Hayden raised his second century of the tournament with calm assurance. The innings was a true thing of beauty, inviting few criticisms and display a gulf of class. A slow and uncertain start had been transformed seamlessly into a brisk hundred. And it was hardly the end for Hayden. Rather than submitting to fatigue, he grew in strength and powered past the 150 mark with even greater comfort.

The rain played games with the players, chasing them off the field on a frustratingly regular basis. But it could not dampen the electric atmosphere set about by Hayden. He challenged the pace of Taylor and resoundingly launched him for two sixes in an over. Similarly he defeated the spin of Samuels and matched the best of his offerings with an array of sublime strokes. For want of shot selection, it was a heavenly display. Eventually Samuels clutched onto a chance at long-off to end Hayden’s epic contribution, but the damage had already been issued, rather resounding in fashion.

Shane Watson did his best at the other end, but his was a innings hidden by Hayden’s afterglow. And though he contributed a crucial 33 not out from 26 balls, few could properly detail any of his 3 fours and a six, given the carnage presented by Hayden earlier.

Australia took 15 off the final over from Dwayne Bravo, and closed their innings on a commanding 322-6. The rain (and drizzle) immediately came down and refused to allow play to continue. Instead the West Indies will chase victory tomorrow, with the reserve day brought into play for the first time in the competition.

Australia 322-6
Matthew Hayden 158, Michael Clarke 41
Daren Powell 2-53, Dwayne Bravo 2-49

Match delayed by rain; West Indies bat tomorrow.

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