Ahmedabad, Feb 21 (IANS) Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson lived up to their pre-tournament billing as they set up Australia’s 91-run victory against Zimbabwe in a Group A World Cup match here Wednesday.
Watson (79) starred with the bat as defending champions Australia recovered from a bad start against some disciplined bowling by Zimbabwe to put up 262/6 on the board.
Australia’s famed pace attack then scythed through the Zimbabwe top order, with Johnson taking four wickets for 19 runs.
The other Australian pacers, Brett Lee (1-34) and Shaun Tait (2-34), also bowled impressively. Off-spinner Jason Krejza chipped in with two wickets.
Zimbabwe had raised hopes after restricting Australia to a chaseable total, but the batsmen failed to make a match of it. The minnows lost wickets upfront and were soon four down for 44. Sean Williams then scored 28 while Prosper Utseya (24) and Graeme Cremer (37) provided some late thrust to the batting but by then it was too late and they folded up for 171 in 46.2 overs.
Earlier, electing to bat, Australia recovered from a slow start. The defending champions scored only 19 runs in the first seven overs, with the Zimbabwean slow bowlers recording economical spells and complimenting their only seamer Chris Mpofu (2-58), who made good use of the new ball.
Australian openers Watson (79, 92 balls, 8×4, 1×6) and Brad Haddin (29, 66b, 3×4) chose to bide their time in the middle and looked rather restrained, with the first powerplay fetching only 28 runs. But Watson soon cut loose, with Haddin happy playing the second fiddle and runs came at a furious pace. Mpofu met with harsh treatment in his sixth over when he was tonked for 17 runs.
Watson and Haddin added 61 runs in their opening stand when Utseya gave his side the breakthrough by trapping Haddin leg before.
Skipper Ricky Ponting, playing his first international match after his finger injury during the Ashes, looked in good touch, toting up 28 runs, and with Watson rustled up 79 runs for the second wicket before the two departed in quick succession.
Watson fell lbw to Cremer and an over later, Ponting was found short of his crease to an accurate throw by Mpofu from mid-wicket.
Michael Clarke (58 not out) and Cameron White (22) steadied the innings, adding 63 runs for the fourth wicket. The Zimbabwe bowlers did a good job of taking wickets at regular intervals but Clarke carried his bat through to anchor the Australian innings