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Hayden high as Aussies beat SA
Prem Panicker | March 24, 2007 22:58 IST
Last Updated: March 25, 2007 03:32 IST
Opener Matthew Hayden scored the fastest century in World Cup history as Australia beat South Africa by 83 runs in the key Group A match on Saturday.
He needed only 66 balls to reach the milestone before being caught for 101. Captain Ricky Ponting scored 91 and Michael Clarke 92 in Australia's 377 for six, their highest World Cup total.
Australia take two points to the Super Eights starting next week.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers put on 160 for the first wicket but after de Villiers was brilliantly run out by Shane Watson with a direct hit from the boundary for 92 the innings lost momentum.
Smith, who was forced to retire hurt with cramps after scoring 72, added only two more on his return before he was caught. South Africa's innings finally closed on 294 with two overs to spare.
I wonder if the Indian cricket team, currently in their hotel rooms hoping that little Bermuda can do to Bangladesh what they couldn't, watched the start of the Australia-South Africa group game?
If they had, some words might have occurred to them: fearless planning, remorseless execution, unflinching courage. qualities that have not been evident in India's `Caribbean Crusade', as the alliterative slug-writer of a national newspaper named it with a blithe disregard for history.
India has in the past confronted rival teams that boast a bowler who plays enforcer, landing the ball on a dime, moving it both ways, keeping the runs down and taking wickets early. Invariably, the `think tank' has `planned' to counter that bowler by `seeing him off', `denying him early wickets', `playing him with care'.
Australian openers Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden, confronted by one such bowler after being put in to bat at Warner Park, St Kitts, unveiled another option. Shaun Pollock, the Aussies reckoned, was the Proteas' enforcer - so Pollock had to go. It was as gutsy, combative and, finally, as simple as that.
Gilchrist had splattered a couple of fours off Makhaya Ntini in the previous overs as some kind of forewearning, but check out over number five for the full monty: Hayden rocks back to the first ball, shortening Pollock's intended length, and crashes him to the point boundary. To the third ball, Hayden comes dancing down the track, picks Pollock up from good length, and slams it high over the wide midwicket boundary and into the stands. The next ball is an of cutter, on off stump line - a familiar Pollock delivery. Hayden leans forward, with studied casualness, and hits on the up, high over the long on boundary.
Graeme Smith engages in near-panicky conversation with his star bowler - who ends the over with figures reading 3-0-33-0.
I think it was Simon Barnes who once described the Australian team as a succession of muscular young men who walk out to bat chewing gum with such fierce intensity, it is almost as if they are masticating the flesh of their enemy.
Today, Hayden and Gilchrist got their jaws working just right, and tore huge chunks out of the Proteas bowling. Gilchrist was going run a ball and better, but the furious Hayden assault made him look like a dead bore. More often than not, Hayden uses muscle to overpower, even emasculate, opposition bowlers. Today, he used science. Pressing forward early, creating a stable base to operate from, the towering Aussie opener let the ball come to him, taking that extra moment to figure out what he wanted to do - the delicate late cut to third man, the crashing thump through point, the bludgeoning drives through the off side, the effortless lofts through long on, the murderous mows over midwicket or, even, the late flicks to fine leg - and did it with controlled precision and brute strength, working impeccably in harness.
In the 15th over, Gilchrist fell to the softest of dismissals: a slower one on off stump from Charl Langeveldt saw the batsman shape to cut; the change down in pace, and the gentle bounce, resulted in a mishit to Gibbs at backward point (42/42; 106/1; partnership 106 at 7.14).
The dismissal barely registered on Hayden. The opener, who a year and a half ago had been dropped from the Australian one day team, with the national selectors suggesting that it was time to move on, was batting in a zone where nothing extraneous to his own assault could intrude.
Hayden is famous for never looking at the scoreboard when he is batting, apparently because he feels it is a distraction; he once said that as long as he was getting the maximum runs he could from each ball bowled to him, the rest didn't matter.
Perhaps for this reason, he seemed unaware of the mounting excitement in the stands and the commentary box. Graeme Smith, who along with Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and others have in recent times dismissed the monochromatic nature of the Proteas attack as not a problem, on this occasion found the serial slaughter of his pacemen worrying enough to bring himself on.
His second ball saw Hayden ease onto the front foot and thump - straight, long and hard, back over the bowler's head and over the sightscreen. It was Hayden's fourth four, to go with 14 boundaries; it was the 66th ball he was facing, and his personal score read 100 - eclipsing, by one run, Canada skipper John Davison's 67-ball stunner against the West Indies in the previous edition of the Cup.
Hayden's dismissal, in the very next over, was anti-climactic. Jacques Kallis got a bit of extra bounce on a ball through the channel, Hayden shaped to cut, and managed only to crack it to Gibbs, who took his second of the game in the backward point position - a strangely gentle end to an innings of brutal power and precision (101/68; 167/2; partnership 61 at 7.03 rpo).
The inability - or unwillingness - of our batsmen to take singles has been a theme through earlier match reports. From that standpoint, check out how a batsman who was hitting them well enough to break the existing speed record went: 32 dot balls, and against that, 17 singles and two twos in addition to the rain of fours and sixes. He didn't need to do all the extra running; runs were coming quickly enough without that - but those runs added to the pressure the Proteas faced: rocked back on their heels by power hitting, then surprised by sneaked singles (On the same theme, Ponting in his first 50, off 61 balls, had 24 singles, and a two).
Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke settled down to milk the middle overs, scampering between wickets, occasionally hitting the ball with intent, and working on putting the South Africans further under the pump. Their batting, and partnership, was not as authoritative as what had preceded it; there was the odd run out chance missed and the odd edge that flashed past the stumps or went just wide of fielders. The overs 26-30 produced a bit of a blip, only 27 runs coming during that period as both batsmen looked to establish themselves.
The Aussies picked up the pace again, with 38 in the next five overs. And once past the 35 over mark, gameplans were revised: Ponting settled down to anchor, racing singles and turning the strike over; Clarke took on the roll of aggressor, smashing at pretty much anything that came remotely within range. Despite a slow start, the right hander got to his 50 off 41, the landmark coming via a brutal mow off Pollock that smashed the ball, flat and hard, over the field and into the advertising boards at long on. It also continued the theme of targeting Pollock - this was the bowler's third, and final, spell; he ended with figures of 0/83 in his 10 overs.
Ironically, the escalating pressure yet again got to the Proteas' best fielder. In the 40th over, Clarke smashed an overpitched offering outside off stump, mishit it in his eagerness, and picked out Gibbs at point. The ball went straight into the fielder's hands, and straight out again (56/54 Clarke). 49 runs came between 36-40, and going into the slog, Australia was sitting on a mountain, with a wealth of batting to come and two set batsmen in the middle.
A mix of Kallis, Ntini, and Hall did very well in the first five overs of the slog, limiting the scoring to just 40. Clarke finished off the 45th over with a six over long on; Ponting tried to begin the 46th with one over the straight field, but holed out to AB de Villiers on the boundary line (91/91; 328/3).
Andrew Symonds, about whom there has been so much discussion, came out next. With only three wickets down, the Aussies didn't have to worry about science any more - Clarke and Symonds started swinging and kept swinging; singles, fours, sixes, they took what they could get while the South Africans scrambled to limit the damage. Clarke though was run out trying to sneak a single Symonds wasn't interested in - apparently the thought that he could have, by limiting risk, gotten to his first World Cup century did not occur to the `Pup' (92/75; 347/4).
Mike Hussey came out with no time to settle; he slashed Hall through point for four, then danced down looking to loft over wide long off, only to hole out (5/3; 353/5).
Symonds unleashed his power (no, there is nothing the matter with his biceps, now) and Shane Watson cheekily reverse swept and paddled the pace of Langeveldt as though he were a spinner; Andrew Hall, the most competent of the Proteas at the death, forced Watson to play two dot balls in the last over of the innings, and bowled Symonds with the last ball of an over that yielded just 4.
Australia ended on 377/6 - and must feel it has underperformed, managing to score just 89 runs, for the loss of 4 wickets. That said, the target is big enough to defend - South Africa will have to do an encore of Johannesburg to get anywhere close.
This, incidentally, is the fifth game in a row that Australia has topped the 300 mark; the only other team to have managed that is Sri Lanka.
Could South Africa have done anything differently? Batted first, probably. But more to the point, Smith's handling of the bowlers, straight out of the Hansie Cronje playbook, perhaps exaggerates the attack's monochromatic nature. He has his opening bowlers bowl five each; he then brings the next pair on, and has them go six apiece. Even the most brutal hammering won't prompt him to change, give a mauled bowler some time away from the crease to recover his wits.
The predictability of his bowling changes also costs in another way: it lets batsmen settle down, size a bowler up, and go after him. Take Kallis for instance: his first four overs cost a mere 16 runs, for the wicket of Hayden; his next two cost 23 as Clarke and Ponting, having got his measure, went after him.
5 overs: 50/0 (Mathew Hayden: 27/11; Adam Gilchrist 23/19)
10 overs: 77/0 (Hayden 46/32; Gilchrist: 31/28)
15 overs: 106/1 (Hayden 64/47; Ricky Ponting 0/1)
20 overs: 151/1 (Hayden 91/60; Ponting 16/19)
25 overs: 174/2 (Ponting 24/35; Michael Clarke 4/6)
30 overs: 201/2 (Ponting 41/50; Clarke 12/21)
35 overs: 239/2 (Ponting 52/62; Clarke 35/39)
40 overs: 288/2 (Ponting 73/75; Clarke 58/54)
45 overs: 328/2 (Ponting 91/90; Clarke 80/71)
South Africa innings
Coach Mickey Arthur talks, constantly, of how his one demand of his South African wards is that they play fearless cricket.
Of late, the Proteas have walked that talk - never more so than here, at the start of their chase. AB de Villiers took three Nathan Bracken deliveries to decide that this was his pitch, his bowling, his day - and opened out with a punch through the covers, followed by an effortless hoist over the midwicket boundary.
From that point on, he was unstoppable: South Africa's answer to Mathew Hayden. Not blessed with Hayden's towering musculature, de Villiers relied instead on lightness of feet and quickness of eye; his batting on the day reminded you of Mohammad Ali's memorable motif `Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee'.
De Villiers' batting was organized on simple lines: whatever line the bowler opted to bowl, he hit through it. At the other end Graeme Smith (was it just earlier this year that Zaheer Khan was making him look like a leaden-footed novice?) used muscle, science and nerve to get off the blocks.
The Australians initially expected Smith to favor the on side, and set their fields and bowled their lines accordingly; Smith sprang a surprise by repeatedly backing away and going on, or through, the off with considerable panache.
The key moment of the contest was in the 6th over, when Glenn McGrath came on for Shaun Tait. McGrath is the Australian answer to Pollock; what the Australians did to the main Proteas bowler this morning, Smith and de Villiers bettered against McGrath.
Two deliveries were played carefully; then de Villiers climbed on the bowler's back. He first square drove from outside his off stump; to the next ball he leaned onto his front foot and produced an exquisite off drive to length; the bowler compensated by lining up the stumps and bowling the fuller length and de Villiers moved inside the line and flicked fine for a third successive boundary.
The two batsmen complemented each other wonderfully well; their combined assault meant that a succession of Australian bowlers couldn't settle to any length, or optimal line. Another potentially interesting moment came in the 19th over, when Ricky Ponting whistled up his talismanic all-rounder, Andrew Symonds.
De Villiers, who on the day was in no mood to respect talismans, kept rocking back and pulling - three pulls, three boundaries, and that was pretty much that.
By the 20 over mark, South Africa was rocketing along at a pace that comfortably matched the Aussies; with both batsmen looking untroubled, it was Ponting and his men who began showing signs of pressure.
And then, in the 22nd, fielding did what the bowlers could not (Memo to the Indians: Fielding IS important; you can't make up for it with the bat). De Villiers pulled, to the left of Shane Watson. The two South African batsmen had perfected this to a fine art - any time they hit to the wrong side of fielders in the deep, they raced the extra run.
Watson ran around, made a sliding stop, got back on his feet and with just one stump to aim at, fired in a throw flat, fast and long - and he hit, with the batsman a foot out of his ground, to end an incandescent innings (92/70; 160/1).
The only possible explanation for Jacques Kallis walking out at that point was that the Proteas figured the Aussies were fully under the pump, and Kallis was better used now, when there was less pressure, rather than later.
The plan back-fired, as the savvy Ponting quickly took the third power play and brought on Shaun Tait who, with the slightly older ball, began producing late reverse swing at high speed.
Kallis was becalmed; Smith had to do double duty. He seemed capable enough, but in the 24th over, collapsed with cramp while completing a single. He got back up; de Villiers came back out to run for him, but one ball later, the South African captain retired, hurt, dealing the chase a huge blow (Smith 72/65; 184/1; the partnership worth a mere 24 at 5.76.
Australia won a little battle during this period, when the bowlers - Tait and Watson, in the main - kept the combination of Smith, Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs down to just 25 runs in the third power play (23-27).
A mathematical problem on the chase is that low-scoring overs in the latter half of the innings drive the ask rate higher, quicker (the Proteas progression, given in five over chunks below this report, indicates the ebbs and flows of the chase). The relative slowing down of the Proteas chase meant the ask went up, the pressure became palpable, and Australia lifted its out cricket by several notches.
With Kallis seemingly unable to do more than nudge and nurdle, Gibbs decided he had to be the one to make the play. In the 32nd over, Gibbs came dancing down and hoisted Hogg clean, long and hard over the straight boundary. To the very next ball, he came forward looking to drive; Hogg beat him with a beautifully conceived wrong `un that was looped just enough to deceive him in flight, bring him forward and spin past the bat. Gilchrist collected and whipped the bails off before Gibbs' foot could come back down (17/19; 220/2; partnership 36 at 5.68).
The Proteas held back their power hitters and sent out Ashwell Prince - another somewhat strange move. McGrath took him out before he could settle: in the 33rd over, the bowler banged one down on the slant across the left hander; Prince went for the hook without getting inside the line, topped it in the air, and Hayden running in from deep square leg had an easy take (1/3; 232/3).
Mark Boucher, fresh from his frenetic, record-breaking 50 against Canada, came out to pick up the chase. By then, though, the Aussies had gotten a second wind: the bowlers were getting the ball to go Irish; the fielders were performing prodigies with the likes of Hayden and Symonds seeming to be all over the place, like diarrhea, and you could feel the squeeze, like a noose, tightening all the time.
The ask rate had been pushed, a notch at a time, over the 10+ mark. Boucher couldn't do it on his own, but Kallis was batting as though in a timeless game. Seeking to compensate for his partner, Boucher swung wild at a Shaun Tait special that started off on line outside off, scorched down the length of the pitch and swung impossibly late. The batsman played all over it, and the ball crashed into his off stump (22/26; 256/4; partnership 33 at 5.07 with Kallis contributing just 11).
The key to the dismissal was not the pace, or the reverse, but the thinking: Tait kept bowling back of length, for four deliveries, before pulling out the yorker to induce the error.
Turning points are not easily quantified, but here, the figures told the story: at the 30 over mark, Australia was 201/2 and South Africa, 209/1. At the 40 over mark, Australia was 288/2; South Africa had merely progressed to 259/4 - and the asking rate had climbed to just a tick under 12 an over.
The big hitting Justin Kemp came out - and Tait, whose final spell was an exhibition of sheer, sustained brilliance, lined him up with a couple of short deliveries, then nailed him with the fuller ball that the batsman inexplicably tried to play without coming forward. The late movement at blinding pace defeated the push and thudded into the pad in front of middle and leg (1/5; 264/5).
Graeme Smith limped back out to the middle, complete with runner. And went - a huge heave at Hogg, a top edge, and Gilchrist ran back three steps to hold (74/69; 267/6).
After his endless crawl, Kallis finally tried to break loose, targeting the straight boundary off Hogg, who on the day mixed up his left arm chinamen and the wrong `uns to very good effect. As often happens to batsmen who try to suddenly change gears, Kallis failed with the hit, managing only to crack it off the toe of the bat to Michael Clarke on the long on line (51/64; 277/6); it didn't help that the batsman was playing for the ball turning in, and was deceived by the one that went the other way.
The procession continued. Shane Watson came on to replace Tait, who had completed his ten; the first over was a very full reverse swinging delivery. Pollock, confronting an asking rate of 16.6, had no option but to go for everything; he missed with his heave, and was bowled (7/11; 278/8).
By then, it was all clinical stuff: Bracken came back on, slowed down an off cutter and foxed Langeveldt, bowling him off stump (0/6; 280/9).
Bracken ended Ntini's brief resistance with another superb use of the three card trick: slow and straight, slow and cutting to off, then a screaming yorker at full pace, that was too good for the number 11 (7/8; 294 all out); giving Australia a win by the sizeable margin of 83 runs.
Actually, that margin is not just sizeable, it is impressive - when you consider that Australia was playing the current world number one.
The 'choker' label will be whipped out again and brandished in South African faces, especially by the Aussie press - but on this occasion, South Africa didn't choke, not really - an incredible run out, an unfortunate injury, and some bad staff work in selecting who came out when, combined to torpedo their chances.
Ricky Ponting's captaincy played a key role in the Australian victory. Unlike Smith when the Aussies were careening along, Ponting never kept any one bowler on for more than two, three overs at a time; he rotated them around, he changed ends, he mixed up the pace by bringing on Hogg just every now and again. And nowhere was his thinking as evident as when Smith walked out to resume his innings.
Bracken and Tait were bowling at the time, and bowling well. Ponting reckoned that Smith would probably enjoy the ball coming on to the bat at speed, and brought Hogg on for Bracken; the move paid off immediately as Smith, not getting pace onto the bat and hampered by his leg, tried to stretch a long way forward into the sweep, and misfired.
Both teams are into the Super Eights; Australia go through unbeaten, gaining momentum all the time - and, crucially, carry forward the two points from this win while South Africa go into the next stage with, in practical terms, a two point deficit to make up.
South Africa's progression
5 overs: 36/0 (AB de Villiers 22/16; Graeme Smith 11/14)
10 overs: 73/0 (Smith 28/24; de Villiers 42/36) Run rate 7.18; Required run rate 7.66
15 overs: 113/0 (Smith 48/36; de Villiers 62/54)
20 overs: 154/0 (Smith 62/53; de Villiers 89/67) RR 7.70; RRR 7.46
25 overs: 184/1 (Smith 72/65; Kallis 5/15) (Australia at the halfway mark, 174/2)
30 overs: 209/1 (Kallis 21/30; Gibbs 9/14) RR 6.96; RRR 8.45
35 overs: 231/3 (Kallis 30/41; Boucher 4/11)
40 overs: 259/4 (Kallis 39/52; Justin Kemp 1/5) RR 6.47; RRR 11.90
45 overs: 279/8 (Charl Langeveldt 0/5; Andrew Hall 0/3).
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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