Bevan takes charge

HOW many teams in World cricket can rest three of their key players and still emerge victorious in a one-day International match?

S. SABANAYAKAN

Michael Bevan cracked an unbeaten 84 and brought Australia out of the woods in Guwahati. -- Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

HOW many teams in World cricket can rest three of their key players and still emerge victorious in a one-day International match? Australia did so at the Nehru Stadium in Guwahati, winning the seventh match of the TVS Cup tri-series against New Zealand by a comfortable 44 runs.

The Trans-Tasman clash, expected to produce a lot of fireworks considering New Zealand's showing in the last two matches in this tournament, fizzled out with the Aussies defending a score of 225.

Ian Harvey is poised to take a return catch from Stephen Fleming. -- Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

Initially everything seemed to go in favour of New Zealand. Skipper Stephen Fleming won the toss and inserted the opposition on a pitch that aided the seam bowlers. Australia was reduced to 61 for four by the 13th over. But it had a man named Michael Bevan, a master batsman in crisis situations, who ultimately made all the difference to the outcome of the game.

Not that the Kiwi bowling, spearheaded by Daryl Tuffey and Kyle Mills, was unplayable. The new opening pair of Ian Harvey and Jimmy Maher, though certainly not in the class of the resting Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, put on 33, with Harvey dominating the scoring. But the openers, as well as Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds, fell to poor shots.

Captain Ricky Ponting battled to compile his 34th half-century in one-day Internationals. But with Bevan digging in, there was always hope for Australia. Bevan's unbeaten 84 was his best at the Nehru Stadium, Guwahati, and it also fashioned Australia's maiden triumph in two outings at this ground.

Nathan Bracken, who finished with three wickets, is being congratulated for dismissing Kyle Mills. -- Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

Partnerships are the essence of one-day games. There were two such associations that carried Australia to a very competitive total of 225 for seven in 50 overs. The first one — 78 runs for the fifth wicket — was between Ponting and Bevan. Later, when Bevan accelerated, 61 runs flowed in for the unfinished seventh wicket with Andy Bichel being Bevan's partner.

Bevan, on single digit then, was indeed very lucky to survive a run out attempt by left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori at his team's total of 118 for four. Had Vettori dived to break the stumps, Bevan would surely have been caught outside the crease. But then fortune favoured the brave Bevan and he made New Zealand pay for it dearly by running up his 44th half-century.

Vettori too reached a milestone. In capturing the wicket of Ponting he became the ninth New Zealand bowler to go past 100 wickets in one-day Internationals.

With an asking rate of 4.52 per over, the Black Caps began the run chase. Michael Kasprowicz, returning to the Aussie one-day team after almost five years and Nathan Bracken, however, made inroads, with the latter capturing two early wickets to peg back the Kiwis. Fleming's woeful form apart, the spineless batting by the New Zealand top-order ought to have infuriated its captain who tried to anchor the innings.

When Australia pushed the Kiwis to a 68 for four situation by the 17th over, the writing was on the wall. A well-drilled team like Australia was never going to slip up from such a situation and it was virtually curtains for New Zealand.

Craig McMillan's caught behind dismissal, which looked doubtful, harmed the Kiwis' chances further. Though Cuttack's Man of the Match, Scott Styris, who got his fifth half-century, and Chris Harris stitched together a 55-run partnership for the sixth wicket in 90 balls, it only helped prolong the game.

Australia's enthusiastic fielding and tight bowling simply strangulated the Kiwis as they were dismissed for 181 in 45.3 overs. Nathan Bracken was the pick of the Aussie bowlers capturing three for 34 in 7.3 overs.

The scores:

Australia: I. Harvey c Nevin b Tuffey 25; J. Maher lbw b Tuffey 3; R. Ponting c McMillan b Vettori 52; D. Martyn c McCullum b Mills 0; A. Symonds c McCullum b Mills 18; M. Bevan (not out) 84; M. Clarke c McMillan b Vettori 2; B. Hogg c Styris b Harris 9; A. Bichel (not out) 15; Extras (lb-9, nb-1, w-7) 17; Total (for seven wickets in 50 overs) 225.

Fall of wickets: 1-33, 2-33, 3-34, 4-61, 5-139, 6-141, 7-164.

New Zealand bowling: Tuffey 10-1-60-2, Mills 8-0-36-2, Oram 10-0-47-0, Vettori 10-0-20-2, Styris 9-1-38-0, Harris 3-0-15-1.

New Zealand: C. Nevin c Ponting b Bracken 2; S. Fleming c & b Harvey 29; L. Vincent c Hogg b Bracken 12; S. Styris c Ponting b Hogg 54; C. McMillan c Maher b Bichel 0; J. Oram lbw b Hogg 14; C. Harris (run out) 38; B. McCullum c Maher b Kasprowicz 7; D. Vettori (run out) 0; K. Mills c Maher b Bracken 4; D. Tuffey (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, lb-6, nb-2, w-9) 21; Total (in 45.3 overs) 181.

Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-38, 3-66, 4-68, 5-88, 6-143, 7-169, 8-170, 9-181.

Australia bowling: Bracken 7.3-0-34-3, Kasprowicz 8-0-28-1, Bichel 7-0-21-1, Harvey 4-0-14-1, Hogg 10-0-39-2, Symonds 4-0-14-0, Clarke 5-0-21-0.