Nagpur, Feb 25 (IANS) Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait paved the way for defending champion Australia’s easy seven wicket win over New Zealand in a World Cup Group A match at the Vidarbha Cricket Stadium (VCA) here Friday.
Openers Shane Watson (62) and Brad Haddin (55) smashed the Black Caps all around as the four-time winners cruised to the target of 207 in 34 overs. With the win, Australia maintained their 31-match unbeaten streak in the World Cup.
It also gave Australia the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy as the match was given the status of the bilateral contest and dedicated it to the earthquake victims of Christchurch.
Heavy overnight rain prompted Australian captain Ricky Ponting to field at Jamtha and his fast bowlers Tait (3/35) and Johnson (4/33) wrecked the Black Caps, though there was not a great deal of movement. A gutsy 54-run eight-wicket stand between Nathan McCullum (52) and captain Daniel Vettori (44) saw New Zealand recover from a pathetic 63 for seven before being all out for 206 in 45.1 overs.
It was an easy chase for Australia as by the time they came out to bat, the track had eased out and openers Watson and Haddin mercilessly pounded the New Zealand bowlers.
Haddin drove fast bowler Tim Southee for a four through the covers in the first over and chipped Vettori over mid-off for another in the left-arm spinner’s second over.
Vettori, who shared the new ball with Southee, did not have the desired effect and the left-arm spinner took himself off after only two futile overs.
Hamish Bennett, who came on for Vettori, was too erratic to create an impact and the Australians carried on unruffled. The 50 of the innings came up in the eighth over and 100 in 14th.
Watson made most of the life he got in the fifth over when he successfully challenged umpire Kumar Dharmansena’s lbw decision off Southee and reached his half-century in style by hitting Vettori for three fours in the 16th over. Watson, on 58, was dropped by substitute Kane Williamson in the deep off Vettori.
After his four dismal overs, Bennett broke the 133-run opening stand in the 19th over by dismissing both the openers. Haddin pulled a slower bouncer to James Franklin at deep mid-wicket and off the third ball Watson played on.
Haddin’s 61-ball knock had six fours and a six while Watson smashed eight fours in his 50-ball innings.
Ponting (12), for whom this was his 24th consecutive World Cup win as a captain, was stumped by Brendon McCullum off a wide delivery from Southee, but vice-captain Michael Clarke (24) and Cameron White (22) carried Australia home.
Earlier, poor shot selection led New Zealand down. Nathan (52) and Vettori (44) enabled them to cross the 200-run mark.
Opener Brendon McCullum (16) was severe on Tait. After hitting two crisply-timed fours, and the wicketkeeper-batsman’s slash could not clear the third man Jason Krejza.
Martin Guptil crawled to 10 before being bowled by Shane Watson. Double strikes from Johnson in the 14th over removed Jesse Ryder (25) and James Franklin.
Ryder, who struck six fours, hardly moved his feet during his 31-ball knock and edged Johnson to wicketkeeper Haddin. Franklin, who was promoted up the order, departed in a similar way chasing a wide delivery.
Veteran Scott Styris went caught behind slashing wildly off Tait and the fast bowler then rattled Ross Taylor’s (7) stumps with an fast in-swinging yorker.