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Kiwis cruise on Vincent, McCullum
Prem Panicker | March 22, 2007 23:27 IST
Last Updated: March 23, 2007 02:51 IST
Canada - in common with most of the associate nations thus far - chose to insert their fancied opponents on winning the toss. And for a few brief moments, enjoyed parity with New Zealand, as their opening seamers used the sultry, steamy early morning conditions to make Lou Vincent and Stephen Fleming poke and prod outside their off stump.
The first two overs yielded only two runs and, with a little bit of luck, should have yielded a wicket, maybe even two. Vincent, who is yet to impose himself on this tournament with the bat, was particularly uneasy around his off stump to the huge swing generated by Anderson Cummins.
His survival seemed touch and go until he decided to plonk his front foot out and have a go. Cummins was carted over extra-cover - and the stranglehold was broken.
Even so, the Canadians bowled the first 10 overs close to perfectly - the Kiwis could manage just 41 runs in that period, and it wasn't for lack of trying. From then on, though, it was pure mayhem as the Kiwis batted with an eye on the record books.
Vincent got his touch and timing back; Fleming gritted it out early on but once the change bowlers arrived to provide their regular diet of half volleys, the Kiwi skipper prospered through drives and patented flicks off the pads. A back injury that forced Umar Bhatti to retire didn't help the Canadian cause; his replacement, Henry Osinde, went for 28 off his first two overs and from there on, the Kiwis grew remorseless.
Fleming and Vincent added 142 for the first wicket in a tick over 21 overs before the former fell to an exceptional catch at short mid on. Future opponents are apt to take note: Fleming tends to whip off his pads rather more often than most and just occasionally, fails to keep the shot down.
Vincent had worked up a good head of steam by then, though, and scarcely missed a beat in his increasingly assured shotmaking; Peter Fulton took over from Fleming and started off like a rocket. The partnership for the second wicket built up a considerable head of steam, and from that point on it was just a procession of batsmen lining up and teeing off on the hapless bowlers and increasingly shoddy fielders.
While Vincent proceeded to his century at one end, Scott Styris came out and bludgeoned seven fours in a blink; Jacob Oram scorned the ground and went airborne thrice in an unfinished cameo, and Brendan McCullum, finding the bowling in total disarray, took pitiless toll with five huge sixes and a four that got him to the fastest ever 50 in World Cup history, off just 20 balls.
Canada, with the ball and in the field, was steam-rollered into submission; the relentless assault was so much of a downer that towards the end, the Canadian fielders were dropping outfield catches as if the ball were too hot to hold on to.
363 was never chaseable, but skipper John Davison, for the space of 9.4 overs, put the frighteners on the Kiwis with an assault that fetched him 50 off just 23 balls, and rocketed Canada to 52 after 5 overs, and 73 at the end of nine, before an attempt to hit a Mason bouncer ended up as a looping skier held, with evident gratitude, by the bowler himself.
In course of that assault, Davison - with Geoff Barnett playing a sublime second fiddle - underlined the dictum that a bowler is only as good as you let him be. The other day, Mason was metronomic, landing the ball on a dime, using millimetric movement either way to tie the batsmen up, and forcing errors with his nagging accuracy.
Today, confronted by a batsman prepared to glide forward and drive with breathtaking power through the covers or over the straight, or rock back and swing out on the on side, the metronome broke down, the accuracy went for a toss as Davison blasted 36 runs off 22 deliveries from the paceman, including 8 breathless fours. At one point, as the batsman creamed four successive boundaries, the ice-cool Mason of the other day was reduced to mouthing some very audible obscenities.
Darryl Tuffey, getting a bowl in this Cup for the first time, fared no better - 16 runs came off 9 deliveries, including one towering six and a thunderous four through the covers.
Once Davison left, the Kiwis got back into their groove in the field. The Canadians continued to bat well, with Barnett, Ashish Bagai, Ian Billcliff, all batting with considerable composure and good skill. However, the run rate, which at the height of the Davison blitz was a tick over 10, could not be maintained; the required run rate, which had been brought down to 6.38, began climbing again, and the Kiwis spread the field out and settled down to choke the opposition.
From then on it was mathematical: the pressure climbed, the Canadians succumbed. This phase permitted Vettori another long bowl; the bowler who went through the 2003 World Cup with two wickets to show for his efforts doubled that tally in his previous game, and added two more here. It also allowed Vincent another opportunity to showcase his lightning swift reflexes - his strike rate on run outs is fast eclipsing anything Ricky Ponting ever did.
To their credit, though, the Canadians gave the Kiwi bowlers a longer workout than they would have hoped for, with the lower order proving unusually sticky. With Shane Bond to blast wickets out, the bowling seemed just that tad underwhelming; Canada should sufficient courage, and cricketing skill, to go past their highest ever score in World Cups (on a day when the Kiwis posted their highest ever World Cup total).
They came within 4 deliveries of lasting the full 50 overs, but against that, Dhaniram retired hurt and did not come out to bat, as Canada ended on 249 giving the Kiwis a win by 114 runs, and an unbeaten record in the group.
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