Johnson’s day out

A middle-order slump saw Australia lose three wickets cheaply before Mitchell Johnson demonstrated that his skills extend beyond the ball.

Mitchell Johnson hit an unbeaten 73 as Australia flourished in the closing overs to launch its ICC Champions Trophy campaign with a 50-run win over the West Indies.

But the anticipated stroll for the world champion never materialised because the Caribbean outfit shrugged off the absence of its best players owing to a contract dispute and improved markedly on the drubbing from Pakistan.

The defending champion was sent in to bat at the Wanderers stadium and finished its 50 overs on 275 for eight before restricting the West Indies to 225 for nine off 46.5 overs with the injured Dale Richards unable to bat.

“I thought we did really well to make our score with exceptional batting from Mitchell, but we did not bowl to our best ability with too many extras conceded,” admitted Australia skipper Ricky Ponting.

West Indies captain Floyd Reifer also hailed Johnson, whose main purpose in the team is as a fast bowler: “He played a magnificent innings. After reaching 124 for two we needed to carry on with one of the batsmen scoring 80, 90 or even 100, but we are learning quickly.”

Australia began disastrously in a rematch of the 2006 Mumbai final it won by eight wickets with Shane Watson bowled off the first ball by a late swinging yorker from Kemar Roach on his return in place of Tino Best.

Ponting steadied the innings with 79 runs off 94 balls, which included nine fours and a six, before he missed a well-flighted delivery from Nikita Miller to be stumped by Chadwick Walton.

A middle-order slump saw the team lose three wickets cheaply before Johnson demonstrated that his skills extend beyond the ball on a hot, clear day in the South African financial capital.

He survived a scare when in single figures to amass his unbeaten 73 off 66 balls in an innings that included eight fours and three sixes. Fellow bowler Brett Lee (25) proved a solid partner before being run out.

Miller, top-scorer with 51 in the five-wicket defeat by Pakistan at the same venue three days ago, was the most successful Windies bowler, taking two wickets for the loss of 24 runs with the 10-over stint including a maiden.

Expectations were high for Gavin Tonge after his four-wicket haul against the Pakistanis, but he finished without a wicket and conceded 55 runs.

Devon Smith scored two consecutive fours at the start of the West Indies innings to signal that the batting collapse that saw the team plunge to 47 for seven against Pakistan was unlikely to be repeated. He made 17 before being caught by Tim Paine off Peter Siddle and then Andre Fletcher and Travis Dowlin lifted the 2004 champion to 124 before the former was run out for 54 by Johnson.

Another five balls and another Windies wicket fell with wicketkeeper Walton attempting to take the cover off the ball only to get an inside edge onto the stumps.

Having stayed just ahead of the required run rate for some time, the West Indies slipped owing to a dearth of boundaries and a spectacular Paine catch saw top-scorer Dowlin exit after contributing 55, including five fours.

Darren Sammy did manage two sixes and a four in his 20, but wickets fell at regular intervals with Watson, Siddle and Nathan Hauritz turning the screws to ensure an Australian success.

THE SCORES

Australia 275 for eight in 50 overs (T. Paine 33, R. Ponting 79, M. Johnson 73 not out, B. Lee 25) bt West Indies 225 in 46.5 overs (A. Fletcher 54, T. Dowlin 55, F. Reifer 28).