Hayden on the rampage

Reprising the near 900-run epic of their last meeting, in Johannesburg last year, the world's top two one-day sides engaged in another boundary-laden tussle. A report by David Clough.

Matthew Hayden plundered the World Cup's fastest hundred to help Australia exact a sweet revenge in another remarkable run-fest against South Africa.

Reprising the near 900-run epic of their last meeting, in Johannesburg last year, the world's top two one-day sides engaged in another boundary-laden tussle.

But this time, on the most important stage, it was the tournament favourites who prevailed by 83 runs in a Group A decider which gives the Aussies two precious winning points to take into the Super Eight.

Hayden (101) was the initial driving force behind Australia's 377 for six, the third-highest total in World Cup history.

South Africa then appeared capable of matching them almost run for run while an opening stand of 160 was under way between A. B. De Villiers (92) and Graeme Smith (74).

But a spectacular piece of outfielding from Shane Watson — running out De Villiers — provided a major turning point and after Smith's innings was interrupted for 15 overs due to cramp, South Africa could not stay with the required rate without taking too many risks.

The last nine wickets, therefore, fell for only 74 runs, and South Africa was all out for 294 with two overs unused in an otherwise even contest which had promised to end in a much tighter finish.

Earlier, Hayden, Michael Clarke (92) and Ricky Ponting (91) made the most of perfect batting conditions — and Warner Park's small boundaries — after Australia were put in.

The opener's century took just 66 balls and contained 14 fours and four sixes as he set the pace in a first-wicket stand of 106 with Adam Gilchrist.

Ponting and Clarke then put on 161 in 22 overs for the third wicket, the Australia captain falling short of a record fifth World Cup hundred and his partner just missing three figures, too. The Australian skipper, however, completed 10,000 runs in one-day internationals.

There were 56 runs on the board after just five overs — and although short periods of consolidation followed, the rate of scoring remained mostly manic.

The first breakthrough was sorely and urgently needed by South Africa — and it came in unlikely fashion, Gilchrist guiding a cut shot into the hands of Herschelle Gibbs at point off Charl Langeveldt.

Hayden still had not played a single false shot — and did not until on 77 he under-edged an attempted pull at Langeveldt for four past his stumps and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, standing up.

Among his barrage of brutal hits, and clever placement when required, were successive sixes off the new-ball bowling of the ultra-reliable Shaun Pollock — a surefire indication that these teams were inhabiting a batsman's paradise, and a bowler's nightmare.

Ponting nonetheless needed seven balls to get off the mark, before announcing — with a six over long-on off Andrew Hall — that he was ready to join in.

Hayden duly reached his hundred with a six off Smith's part-time off-spin, only to depart — to an even tamer aerial cut than Gilchrist's, from a slow long-hop in Jacques Kallis' first over.

Ponting and Clarke needed a little time to gather momentum. Each might have been run out, or even caught via half-chances, before reaching 50 as South Africa's famed fielding fell slightly below its usual meteoric standards.

Gibbs produced the only real clanger, though, dropping a simple chance given by Clarke off Hall to point when he had scored 56.

Ponting eventually fell to a catch at long-on off Makhaya Ntini and Clarke was run out after Andrew Symonds called for a single and then sent him back.

But Australia still added 89 runs in the final 10-over bash, to post their second-best one-day international score.

If anyone thought the total was impregnable, the delusion did not last long once Smith and De Villiers got started. The latter wasted no time setting about the Australia attack, unfurling a succession of memorably-timed back-foot shots, beginning with a pull off Nathan Bracken off the fifth ball of the innings for the first of his two sixes, to go with 14 fours from 70 balls. He never looked back until he was run out by Watson's direct hit from deep square-leg as he tried to scamper a second run.

South Africa's chase faltered from that moment. A wonderful piece of left-arm wrist-spin bowling and wicket-keeping combined for the stumping of Gibbs, pushing forward to Brad Hogg and losing his balance when the googly turned away from him. An alert Gilchrist did the rest, kickstarting the fall of regular wickets, which left number three Kallis unable to do the job on his own.

When Smith returned he could add only two more runs before a faulty sweep; then Kallis was caught in the deep two short of his 50 to become a third victim of Hogg, who along with Shaun Tait deserved most praise among the Australian bowlers.

Ricky Ponting described Australia's win over South Africa as the "ideal start" to the favourites' World Cup campaign.

The Aussies upped the ante, after easy victories over minnows Scotland and Holland, in pursuit of a third successive World Cup title.

Ponting refused to get carried away just yet but is delighted to have Super Eight points in the bag at the expense of the world's top-rated one-day team.

"It's a big win for us. We've been saying how important it is and we are delighted to be taking those points and a pretty healthy run-rate through with us as well," said Ponting.

"It is an ideal start to the tournament. But that's all it is for us. We've been excited about this game and we've gone and played a really good game." South Africa captain Smith unsurprisingly identified his cramp problems and De Villiers' run-out as two crucial moments.

"It's the first time I've ever been through cramp like that," he said.

"Having fielded 50 overs, moving people around you do get little bursts of cramp. But today was unusual, I've never had it as badly as that before. The turning point was when AB and I ended up being out at the same time. It was a terrific run-out. AB was really playing well at that point but then losing both of us at about that time made it a rough point for us. Even going into the 35th over we were right in there. But it was just too much to do in the end."

THE SCORES

Group A: Australia v South Africa. Australia won by 83 runs.

Australia: A. Gilchrist c Gibbs b Langeveldt 42; M. Hayden c Gibbs b Kallis 101; R. Ponting c De Villiers b Ntini 91; M. Clarke (run out) 92; A. Symonds b Hall 18; M. Hussey c Kallis b Hall 5; S. Watson (not out) 14; Extras (lb-4, w-9, nb-1) 14. Total (for six wkts., in 50 overs) 377.

Fall of wkts: 1-106, 2-167, 3-328, 4-347, 5-353, 6-377.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 10-0-83-0; Ntini 9-0-68-1; Langeveldt 10-0-82-1; Hall 10-0-60-2; Smith 2-0-14-0; Kallis 9-0-66-1.

South Africa: G. Smith c Gilchrist b Hogg 74; A. B. De Villiers (run out) 92; J. Kallis c Clarke b Hogg 48; H. Gibbs st. Gilchrist b Hogg 17; A. Prince c Hayden b McGrath 1; M. Boucher b Tait 22; J. Kemp lbw b Tait 1; S. Pollock b Watson 7; A. Hall (not out) 8; C. Langeveldt b Bracken 0; M. Ntini b Bracken 7; Extras (w-11, nb-1, pen-5) 17. Total (in 48 overs) 294.

Fall of wkts: 1-160, 1-184* (Smith, retired not out), 2-220, 3-223, 4-256, 5-264, 6-267, 7-277, 8-279, 9-280.

Australia bowling: Bracken 9-0-40-2; Tait 10-0-61-2; McGrath 9-0-62-1; Watson 8-1-46-1; Hogg 10-0-61-3; Symonds 2-0-19-0.

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