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Johnson, Tait pace too hot for Kiwis

Last updated on: February 25, 2011 16:55 IST

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It was always going to be tough for New Zealand.

Their overall one-day record against neighbours Australia (34 wins against 84 defeats) was hardly awe-inspiring.

And what was further depressing was the fact that they had not beaten Australian in seven matches on Indian soil, their last win over their neighbours in the World Cup was in 1999.

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All these factors probably weighed in their player's minds. How else do you explain the manner in which their batting collapsed.

The Black Caps were 73 for six at one stage (after 17 overs) before eventually managing 206. What more, they failed to play their full quota of overs, getting dismissed with 29 balls to spare.

Chasing a modest target, the Australian openers made things easy by putting on a 133-run stand.

Once that happened, there was never going to be any problem. The target was reached for the loss of only three wickets and in just 34 overs.

The victory stretched Australia's unbeaten run in the World Cup to 31 matches -- 30 wins and a tie (against South Africa in 1999).

Mitchell JohnsonIt also extended their unbeaten streak over their neighbours on Indian soil to eight matches. It was also the team from Down Under's ninth win in the last 10 ODIs that they have featured in, clearly underlining their top status in the format.

Besides, it helped them retain the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.

The Black Caps have now won only three of their last 20 ODIs. An appalling statistic for a team that was considered a good one-day outfit not long back.

Coming to the match per se, the last time Australia played New Zealand in the World Cup (in 2007), Shaun Tait had crippled the Kiwi batting with a handful of wickets.

The World Cup Group A game between the neighbours on Friday, at the VCA stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur, witnessed an encore.

The quickie claimed three vital wickets for 35 runs as the Black Caps failed to play out their full quota of overs (they batted for only 45.1 overs).

And akin to that match in the Caribbean, Tait, despite being the destroyer-in-chief, wasn't Australia's best bowler in terms of wickets taken.

That honour went to Mitchell Johnson, who snapped up four wickets (4-33). The duo helped Australia secure their 30th straight win in the World Cup.

Had it not been for Nathan McCullum's defiant 52, the Kiwi scoreboard would have made for a miserable reading.

In the final analysis, his effort was not good enough to save the day for the Black Caps.

New Zealand innings: (206 all out, 45.1 overs)

Ricky Ponting won the toss and had no hesitation in bowling fast due to overcast conditions -- it had rained the night before. And his bowlers vindicated his decision.

In what can be termed as a devastating bowling display, Australia crippled the New Zealand batsmen with sheer pace.

While most teams have resorted to spin to make an impact during the tournament, the three-time defending champions defied all convention and stuck to what they do best -- intimidate the opposition with quality fast bowling.

To say that they were successful in their endeavour would be an understatement.

New Zealand got off to a tentative start, losing both their openers -- Brendon McCullum (16) and Martin Guptill (10) -- inside the first 10 overs.

Jesse Ryder (25) tried to ease the pressure a bit with a flurry of boundaries. However, Johnson's twin strikes in the first over after drinks (14th) crippled New Zealand to a considerable extent.

Both Ryder and James Franklin (0) were dismissed, caught behind, in the space of three balls to reduce the Black Caps to 66 for four.

The astute mind in Ponting sensed the opportunity and he brought back Tait in a bid to inflict more damage on New Zealand.

The ploy worked. Tait induced an edge from Scott Styris's (0) blade and Haddin took his third catch in the space of nine balls.

The Black Caps had just 68 runs on the board after 15 overs, with half their side back on the pavilion.

And Tait inflicted more misery on them when he cleaned up Ross Taylor (7) in his fourth over, his second after drinks.  

With New Zealand struggling at 78 for six, Ponting introduced Jason Krejza into the attack (in the 20th over), after Johnson had bowled seven overs in an uninterrupted spell.

The VCA ground was the venue where Krejza had impressed on his Test debut, taking 12 wickets against India in 2008. However, on Friday he was disappointing.

Jamie How (22) and Nathan McCullum put together a 48-run partnership for the seventh wicket to ensure some stability in the New Zealand innings.

However, just as things looked to settle down for the Kiwis, Steven Smith struck, having How out leg before.

In came captain Daniel Vettori and it took an impressive 54-run eighth wicket stand between him and McCullum to take the New Zealand total to a semblance of respectability.

In the process, McCullum registered his third ODI fifty, a timely knock to say the least.

Vettori was impressive as well in his 43-ball 44, an innings that comprised five boundaries.

However, the damage that happened early on in their innings proved too much for New Zealand. They could never really recover from the same.

They could only score 206.

Australia innings: (207 for three in 34 overs)

Brad Haddin (55) and Shane Watson (62) started the Australian innings on an aggressive note and they ensured there was no break in the flow of runs.

Haddin, in particular, went on the offensive for the very first over.

The wicketkeeper batsman registered his 12th ODI half century in quick time, even as Australia passed the 100-run mark inside 14 overs.

Australian aggression was such that New Zealand team refrained from taking the bowling powerplay after the 10th over, as is usually the norm.

Around the 13th over, Watson went ahead and changed his bat. The impact was immediate.

The first ball he faced following the change, off Nathan McCullum, was smashed to the deep point boundary. Four balls later, he cleared the deep midwicket fence for the first maximum of the match.

He reached his 21st ODI fifty, his third in the World Cup, sooner than it had seemed initially, at almost a run-a-ball.

With both the batsmen upping the ante, there was little a hapless New Zealand team could do other than wait for the match to get over.

The duo put on 133 runs for the opening wicket in just 18 overs.

And when Haddin departed, to the first ball of the 19th over, caught by Franklin off Bennett, it came in as a big relief, albeit temporary, for the Black Caps.

Haddin's 50-ball 55 was inclusive of eight hits to the fence.

Watson followed soon after, cleaned up by Bennett in the same over. His 61-ball 62 was inclusive of six hits to the fence and one over it.

The 19th over thus spelt dual success for New Zealand, albeit coming quite late in the day.

Ricky Ponting (12) didn't survive long either, Brendon McCullum cleaning the bails off a Southee delivery.

However, Michael Clarke (24 not out), who surpassed the 6,000 ODI runs landmark when on 14 -- and Cameron White (22 not out) ensured there was no further damage, putting on an unbeaten 40-run partnership for the fourth wicket.

Australia reached their target with a whopping 96 balls to spare.

Photograph: Reuters

Bikash Mohapatra in Nagpur