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Ponting, Hodge guide Australia to victory
February 04, 2007 17:29 IST
An imperious century from skipper Ricky Ponting and an unbeaten 99 from Brad Hodge guided Australia to a tense five-wicket victory in the tri-series match against New Zealand on Sunday.
Ponting, returning to the side after missing Friday's defeat by England with a hip problem, struck 104 as he and Hodge helped the hosts reach their victory target of 291 with 10 balls to spare at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The victory means the winner of Tuesday's match between England and New Zealand in Brisbane will take on the hosts in the best-of-three finals starting in Melbourne on Friday.
The world champions started their run chase positively with Adam Gilchrist (29) and Matthew Hayden (28) adding 56 for the first wicket before they were both dismissed in successive James Franklin overs.
The hosts looked edgy when Michael Clarke (9) went at 112-3 but Ponting and Hodge timed their chase to perfection, taking advantage of some poor bowling to record a stand of 154 and help their side reach the highest-ever winning target at the MCG.
A disappointed Ponting holed out to Lou Vincent at long-off with victory in sight and Mike Hussey's run out (8) added to the tension, but Hodge fell agonisingly short of his century as he hit the winning runs.
After winning the toss, the Kiwis lost skipper Stephen Fleming cheaply (12) before Vincent and Peter Fulton put the New Zealanders on course for an impressive total.
Vincent (90) and Fulton (60) added 151 for the second wicket in even time to give New Zealand the ideal platform.
Scott Styris (34), Brendon McCullum (19) and Franklin (13no) added useful runs down the order to keep the momentum going as the wickets steadily fell.
There were two wickets apiece for Michael Clarke, Stuart Clark and Brett Lee.