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Australia too good for Holland
Prem Panicker | March 18, 2007 23:08 IST
Last Updated: March 19, 2007 01:26 IST
For the second time in two days, the World Cup was racked by shock, and dismay.
Yesterday, it was the premature exit of Pakistan from the Cup; today, the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer - a man who believed Pakistan had what it took to be the best in the world, and that he was the man who could help the team attain that status.
Meanwhile, out in the middle, business as usual was resumed, with Australia taking on the Netherlands.
There was much speculation before the game on whether Australia - smarting from having lost its number one ranking in one-day cricket to South Africa on the eve of the World Cup - would try to outdo the Proteas in clobbering the men in orange.
Whether such a possibility was discussed by the Aussies or no is unknown; out there in the field, the Aussies showed no signs that such an agenda was on their minds (in the event, they didn't - South Africa made 353/3 in 40 overs that day; Australia today made 358/5 in the full 50 overs).
What Australia looked to do, once Ricky Ponting won the toss and tripped over his tongue in his haste to opt for first strike, was give its top order a good, long hit. Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke and Brad Hodge capitalized; Mathew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey did not (though in defense of Hussey, he came out to bat in the 48th over, and had no opportunity to settle in).
Of the successful troika, Clarke and Hodge were particularly impressive. The two batsmen, fighting for the same spot in the lineup, put on a 204-run partnership that showcased their individual styles: Clarke all style and flash and particularly brilliant against spin, Hodge rock solid, composed, exuding an air of dependability.
The association was divided into two halved: the first, a period of calm, assured accumulation and the second, from the 35th over on, a cataclysmic explosion that reduced the bowlers and fielders to fetch and carry men.
The Dutch did what they could, but their best is not even in the same zip code as good enough. Often, the ideas were right, the execution awry: for Ponting, for instance, they packed the off field, then fed him long hops on middle and leg, playing to his on side strength though clearly the intent was otherwise.
Dropped catches didn't help - Gilchrist and Ponting were both let off; though Ponting was caught on the same score immediately thereafter, the lapses underlined the impression that the Dutch were yet to recover from the pounding at the hands of the Proteas the other day. Here, against the defending champions, they were clearly on the back foot, apprehensive of another slaughter, and that showed in their inability to attack, to put any sort of pressure on the form team.
The 'chase' was a misnomer - Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait and Glenn McGrath packed too many guns for the inexperienced Netherlands. While there was no expectation of a real chase, the Dutch raised visions of a fight with a controlled opening stand of 36 between Reekers and Zuiderent. But once the former fell, it triggered a collapse with four more wickets going down for the addition of just 10 runs, to reduce the Dutch to 46/5 inside 11 overs.
That was the game right there. Van Bunge and Tim de Leede ensured against a total rout, with the former hitting some clean, hard strikes - a blistering drive through the covers off the pacy Tait being the standout.
The two added 41 at a brisk 5.8 rpo, prospering against the pace diet. Brad Hogg came on with his chinamen, and struck in his first over with his favorite delivery, finding de Leede's edge through to Hayden at first slip, and the resistance was terminated. Immediately thereafter, McGrath claimed his 50th World Cup victim when he nailed de Leede in front of off; the sound you heard in the distance as the batsman walked off was the Last Post.
Australia sealed the win by 229 runs after bundling Netherlands out for 129, with a good 23-plus overs to spare; as an indication of the gulf separating the two teams, that is as indicative as any.
If you try totting up the gains and losses for the two teams, you come up empty. Australia got nothing more than an extended net; the Netherlands, nothing more than confirmation that they are not yet ready to swim with the sharks.
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