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Australia a class apart as rivals falter
Tony Lawrence |
February 17, 2003 11:18 IST
Just over a week into the 2003 World Cup and it's already clear that the event has been devalued by the decision to allow too many underprepared, outclassed minor teams -- 13 out of 14, in fact -- to take part.
Australia began the event as huge favourites, with South Africa, Pakistan and India supposedly tucked in their slipstream.
Since then, Ricky Ponting's side have pulverised Pakistan and made a nonsense of Indian pretensions, beating them by 82 runs and nine wickets respectively in two simply awesome displays.
On Sunday, South Africa, not helped by the rain gods, lost their second Group B match in three, beaten by nine wickets by New Zealand.
The hosts, desperate to become the first team to win the trophy on home soil, now face an uphill battle just to qualify for the next round, needing to win their remaining three games while hoping other results go their way.
"It's very difficult now (to qualify) but we still have hope," said skipper Shaun Pollock.
"We still believe we can get through. (The revised target and) the conditions didn't help much but, in the end, they outplayed us.
"We're just hoping for a lifeline now...things are now out of our control."
Stephen Fleming's run-a-ball 134 not out turned the tables on Herschelle Gibbs's run-a-ball 143 at the Wanderers.
Before Sunday, the New Zealand captain had managed to get to three figures just three times in 184 one-day innings but he did it when it counted as New Zealand, set a revised target of 226, cruised home with 13 balls to spare. Fleming put on an unbeaten 140 for the second wicket with Nathan Astle.
Sunday had been a must-win game for both sides.
New Zealand seem set to lose four points after refusing to play Kenya in Nairobi because of safety concerns.
"We got together (before the run chase against South Africa) and said it was our last chance," Fleming added.
"I've waited a long time for an innings like that."
England, who have already been forced to forfeit their Group A game against Zimbabwe because of security worries, began with a six-wicket win over the Netherlands in East London on Sunday.
James Anderson, a 20-year-old playing second XI cricket only a year ago and only in the team because of injuries, produced the best World Cup bowling performance by an Englishman for 20 years as he took four for 25.
Even here, however, there was an Australian shadow.
"We lacked a bit of a killer punch -- obviously we haven't got a Brett Lee," captain Nasser Hussain said, referring to the Australian strike bowler.
The only man to rival Lee's speed is Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan.
He fed on real minnows on Sunday by taking four for 46 against Namibia in Kimberley, while Wasim Akram took five for 28.
Group A strugglers Namibia were routed for 84 -- the fourth lowest World Cup score ever and coming six days after the Namibians had conceded 340 against Zimbabwe, the fourth highest total recorded in tournament history.
Namibia skipper Deon Kotze ended the day defending his team's right to be playing in the tournament, along with the likes of the Netherlands, Kenya, Canada and even Bangladesh.
"I don't think cricket can grow globally if it's kept to a select group of 10 or 11 or 12 teams," he said.
Many people may already be thinking that cricket cannot grow globally if it's kept to a select club of one.