Ponting makes it a winning start

Australia made a winning start in the latest incarnation of the game, as skipper Ricky Ponting led his side to a 44-run win in the first ever International Twenty20 match. Ponting laid the platform for Australia’s total of 5/214 with a scintillating unbeaten 98, before Michael Kasprowicz wrecked the Kiwi batting card with four wickets.

The match, though a serious encounter, was accompanied by a less-than-serious side, as became apparent at the toss. The Kiwis, led by their now mustachioed skipper Stephen Fleming, were decked out in the infamous beige team kits of the 80s, while Australia reverted to the canary yellow. Upon winning the toss, Ponting elected to bat, giving his team the first chance to make the most of the tiny Eden Park boundaries.

Opening with Clarke and Gilchrist, Australia attempted to make the most of the fielding restrictions in the first six overs, but in their aggression came unstuck early on. Clarke took the attack to Tuffey early on, slicing him off the back foot for a remarkable six over cover, but was out the next ball attempting a pull shot. The delivery seamed off the pitch hitting high on Clarke’s bat, allowing the ball to balloon to McMillan at mid-on. Gilchrist too wasn’t able to make the most of a format which would normally suit him, managing only a single before miscuing a pull shot to be caught in the deep, again by McMillan.

The innings was given impetus by the arrival of Andrew Symonds to the crease, and he demonstrated just why he has had so much success in this form of the game in English County cricket. Symonds hammered four fours and two sixes, but was out before he could build a big total. After subjecting Kyle Mills to a boundary-hitting barrage, Mills had the last laugh, as Symonds edged a cut shot to the ‘keeper McCullum off the last delivery of the over. More success followed with the first ball of Mills’ next over, as Martyn fell for just three. After a few streaky shots early on, Martyn tried to launch Mills into the offside, only to have his offstump knocked back.

After a calamitous start which produced 4/54 from 5.1 overs, captain Ricky Ponting attempted to steady Australia’s first-game nerves. Though roundly booed when he sedately tapped his first ball to mid-on for a single, Ponting’s innings extolled the virtue of proper cricket shots rather than aimless slogging, even in this drastically shortened version of the game. He found a reliable ally in Simon Katich, as the pair moved Australia into a strong position for a late-innings assault. Ponting picked up regular boundaries from drives along the ground, while Katich opened up on one occasion, belting a six over mid-on. The pair added 83 before Cairns, the pick of the Kiwi bowlers with 1/28, rattled Katich’s stumps.

With the fifth wicket falling in the 15th over, Ponting and Mike Hussey took to the Kiwi bowling in the late overs to assert a huge advantage. Former rugby star Jeff Wilson made a less than spectacular return to his old stomping ground as Ponting launched into his bowling, crashing him for boundaries past fine leg and a huge flick shot over square leg which cannoned into the top tier of the stadium. Wilson and Andre Adams felt finished with the unspectacular figures of 0/43 and 0/40 respectively from their four overs, but it was Daryl Tuffey who was dealt the harshest blows. After a tight initial spell of 1/20 from three overs, Tuffey returned to bowl the penultimate over against a red-hot Ponting. A first-ball six over long off was followed by a scampered two, before Ponting got under the next two, launching them over the bowler then over mid-wicket. A full-pitched ball resulted only in a cover-driven four, and the next again over mid-wicket for the maximum. The 30-run over gave Tuffey the unhappy figures of 1/50 from his four.

The final over saw Ponting move from 93 to 97 with another cover drive, but he could only manage a single from the next two. Hussey smashed the penultimate delivery over square leg for six, and couldn’t manage a run from the next, Ponting finishing on a remarkable unbeaten 98 from just 55 balls with five sixes and eight fours in his first taste of the games most abbreviated form. Hussey finished with 31* from just 15, lifting Australia to a monumental 5/214, New Zealand needing an enormous 10.75 runs per over for victory.

A lively first over from Brett Lee conceded only two runs, increasing the pressure on the Black Caps to take the attack to McGrath. That they did, McCullum and Fleming ruining the miser’s figures early on. Fleming took to Brett Lee in his second over, narrowly missing out on a flat six over point, and managed two more before a promising innings was cut short. After initial success against the opening bowlers, taking 49 runs from 5 overs, Fleming was undone by a first-ball gem from Michael Kasprowicz, unable to lay bat to an inswinging yorker which cannoned into his stumps. Kasprowicz’s dream start continued the next ball, when Sinclair languidly ballooned an attempted lofted drive straight to Katich at mid-off. McCullum kept out the hattrick delivery, but fell Kasprowicz’s next over after a promising 36. A seemingly perfectly-timed cut shot went straight into the hands of Ponting at point, reducing NZ to a shaky 3/67 in the eighth over.

New Zealand missed the opportunity to send in big-hitting allrounder Cairns before the situation worsened, as McMillan fell cheaply. James Hopes exacted his revenge on McMillan after being hit for six previously, having him caught by Hussey in the deep. Cairns came in with New Zealand in trouble and when he departed for one they were in even more, skying Kasprowicz to McGrath inside the cirle attempting one of his trademark sixes. Kasprowicz finished with 4-0-29-4, outstanding figures which effectively ended the Kiwi’s chances of winning.

Symonds showed that spinners can be used effectively in this form of the game, bowling Marshall for 8. Though Scott Styris was happily blasting away at one end, he failed to find support as a mid-pitch mixup accounted for Adams. Styris belted 66 from only 39 balls but was left needing a four from every ball of the last three overs to win. Lee and McGrath ensured that didn’t happen, and ultimately New Zealand were left the impossible task of scoring 45 runs from McGrath’s final delivery. McGrath considered re-enacting the infamous underarm incident to make doubly sure, but was red-carded by eccentric umpire Billy Bowden. Eventually it was a legitimate delivery which had Mills caught at mid-on, ending New Zealand’s innings at 170 all out from exactly 20 overs, some 44 runs shy of Australia’s total.

The first International Twenty20 match proved a huge hit with the capacity crowd, and though the match itself was not designed to be taken entirely seriously, the performances of the players were anything but unprofessional. Australia will take the advantage heading into the ODI series beginning Saturday, where the teams will contest the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, currently held by neither team as the inaugural series was drawn 1-1.

Score Summary:

AUSTRALIA 5 for 214 from 20 overs
RT Ponting 98* (55), A Symonds 32 (13), MEK Hussey 31* (15);
KD Mills 3/44 (4), CL Cairns 1/28 (4)

NEW ZEALAND 170 all out from 20 overs
SB Styris 66 (39), BB McCullum 36 (24);
MS Kasprowicz 4/29 (4), GD McGrath 2/48 (4)

Result: Australia win by 44 runs

Man of the Match: RT Ponting, 98* (55)

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