Lop-sided contest

Shane Watson... top-scorer and Man of the Match against Zimbabwe.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Australia, with an undefeated run of 29 World Cup matches since 1999, was in total control of the match against Zimbabwe.

There were questions about the Australian batsmen's reluctance to employ the sweep shot against the Zimbabwe spinners. Left-arm spinners Raymond Price and Sean Williams, off-spinner Prosper Utseya and leg-spinner Graeme Cremer sent down 39 overs between them on a slow turf at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, in a Group A league match of the World Cup and not a single text-book sweep was attempted. Shane Watson felt it was a risky shot to be played on the wicket.

The Australians might argue that none of their batsmen played the hook shot or the on-drive, too, and yet won the match.

It was Australia's first match of the quadrennial tournament and Watson and Brad Haddin, with their approach, made it abundantly clear that they were not going to play to the gallery and that they were being purposeful with the ultimate aim of winning the match.

The wicket prepared by Dhiraj Parsana did not generally have consistent bounce and pace, but showed some bias towards the slow men. The Australians — with an undefeated run of 29 World Cup matches since 1999 — were in control of the proceedings right from the time Watson despatched Chris Mpofu's wayward delivery to the fine-leg fence. In the end, the winner of four World Cups cantered home by 91 runs — a result that skipper Ricky Ponting said was achieved because the team played good and solid cricket.

The Australians cut out all the frills, but did not allow any opportunity to go wasted.

Watson and Haddin are Australia's new opening pair with 662 runs between them before they set out to do business at Motera. They may not come close to matching the individual brilliance, innovative stroke-play and the power hitting of Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, but Watson and Haddin are turning out to be adequate replacements.

Watson (79, 92b, 8x4, 1x6) was the top scorer in the match and was declared the ‘Man of the Match'. But Australia posted a winning total, thanks to Michael Clarke's poise and ability to take control from the 32nd over. His unbeaten half-century (58, 55b, 4x4) was crucial.

Ponting, who was run out following Mpofu's direct hit from deep mid-wicket, somewhat impeded Australia's progress to around 300.

While spin was Zimbabwe's chief weapon, Australia put into action its three-pronged pace attack and bundled out Zimbabwe for 171.

After the match Ponting stoked Mitchell Johnson's ego by saying that his 4 for 19 from 9.2 overs was the best he had seen from the left-arm seamer in a long time.

It was an emphatic victory for Australia, but it was also a match marred by a dressing-room incident. Ponting, disappointed by his dismissal, damaged a television and was reprimanded by the ICC.

On the eve of the match Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher appeared to be pessimistic of his team's chances. Perhaps his statement, “If both the teams play to their potential, Zimbabwe may lose,” would not have gone down well with his team. However, it's an honest assessment by someone who has scored thousands of runs in the English County championship.

— G. Viswanath

Ryan ten Doeschate swelled his ODI wickets tally to 50 by dismissing in-form Jonathon Trott and Ian Bell. The Netherlands' bowling resources were so limited that once the all-rounder had exhausted his quota of 10 overs, England scored freely against the others to post a seven-wicket victory.

“We genuinely thought we had a chance of defending 290 at a lot of stages in the game and looked like doing that. I think if we had bowled well we would have won the game,” said ten Doeschate, who was named the Man of the Match for his commanding display with bat (he scored a career-best 119 off 110 balls) and ball against the three-time World Cup finalist.

A Dutch cricketer talking about possibilities of a victory against England on the World Cup stage is unusual. The Netherlands had stunned England before in a World T20 match, but repeating the feat in the 50-over format was a fantasy for the associate member of the ICC.

Tendo (Ryan ten Doeschate's nickname) single-handedly gave England the jitters at the magnificent Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium. His bowling performance, despite suffering from cramps and coming on the back of an astonishing knock with the bat, was quite remarkable. If only Tendo had support from one more bowler that night, the Dutch, backed by its superb fielding, could have taken the match to the wire.

“We thought 230-240 would be a good score, so we set our marker to 270. But if we had worked a little harder, maybe we could have got to 310. When we do come across a good deck like that and get a good team on the back-foot you do need to put your foot on the gas a bit early,” said ten Doeschate.

The England batsmen covered up for their team's bowling, fielding and strategy lapses to sneak home with eight balls remaining. Captain Andrew Strauss (88), Kevin Pietersen (39), Trott (62), Bell (33) and Paul Collingwood (30) kept the scoreboard ticking.

“You've got to give a lot of credit to Ryan ten Doeschate for the way he played. We've seen him do that for Essex, but on the big stage it's a hard thing to do and he played exceptionally well,” said Strauss in praise of the Dutchman.

Instead of getting overawed by the reputation of the England seamers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and spinner Graeme Swann, ten Doeschate kept focus on the task at hand and paced his innings well. World Cup debutant Wesley Baressi acquitted himself well as an opening batsman and later behind the stumps. Tom de Grooth connected with a reverse hit off Swann, while Tom Cooper founds the gaps and ran the singles hard.

The England bowlers had a harried time, while the fielders felt the heat and panicked. “I think we have to take that on the chin and learn from it pretty quickly because you can't afford to do that too often. Thankfully the batsmen got us out of jail,” said Strauss.

— Nandakumar Marar

Captain Shahid Afridi took five wickets as Pakistan crushed Kenya by 205 runs at the Mahinda Rajapakse International Cricket Stadium, Hambantota, Sri Lanka.

A strong show by Pakistan's middle-order batsmen saw them put up 317 for seven in 50 overs after electing to bat. Umar Akmal smashed a 52-ball 71 while Misbah-ul-Haq hit a 69-ball 65. Umar's elder brother, Kamran, made 55 while senior batsman Younis Khan made 50.

Flying Dutchman... Ryan ten Doeschate acknowledges the cheers of the crowd on reaching the three-figure mark against England.-AP

Kenya began its chase cautiously, having been bowled out for 69 in its first match against New Zealand. Openers Maurice Ouma and Seren Waters batted for 9.1 overs with only 37 runs on the board. But then they started losing wickets.

Collins Obuya was the only batsman to take the fight to the opposition camp as he blasted three sixes and three fours in his 58-ball 47. Veteran Steve Tikolo added 13, but once Afridi (5-16) took the ball in his hand, he ran through the Kenyan innings in a jiffy. Kenya was finally bowled out for 112 in 33.1 overs. It lost eight wickets for the addition of just 40 runs. None of the last six batsmen reached double digits with four of them being dismissed for zero.

Bangladesh survived a scare before its bowlers helped the team to a 27-run victory over Ireland in Dhaka.

Defending a small score of 205 runs, Bangladesh bowled out Ireland for 178 runs in 45 overs with pacer Shafiul Islam taking four wickets. Skipper Shakib al Hasan and Mohammad Ashraful took two wickets each.

The bowlers were backed by some strong fielding with opener Tamim Iqbal, who scored a brisk 44, taking a brilliant diving catch at deep to get rid of Ireland's top scorer Niall O'Brien (38). The catch swung the match in Bangladesh's favour.

Ireland lost wickets at regular intervals and was never in the hunt except for the 39-run third wicket partnership between O'Brien and Ed Joyce (16). Kevin O' Brien (37) and Andre Botha (22) tried to pull things back but it was not enough.

Bangladesh, which lost the first match against India, registered its first victory in the tournament and celebrated the moment in front of the packed stadium. But it was not before the team went through some tense moments. Ireland gave itself a good chance to beat Bangladesh and repeat its feat of the 2007 World Cup when it got the better of the sub-continental team.

Bangladesh was at one point struggling at 86 for four. Tamim (44) played a cameo while Mushfiqur Rahim (36) and Raqibul Hasan (38) were involved in a steady 61-run fifth-wicket partnership to pull the team through choppy waters.

Left-arm spinner George Dockwell was impressive in his spell, taking two wickets for 23 runs.

THE SCORES

February 25: Bangladesh vs. Ireland (Group B), Dhaka.

Result: Bangladesh won by 27 runs.

Bangladesh 205 in 49.2 overs (Tamim Iqbal 44, Mushfiqur Rahim 36, Raqibul Hasan 38, Naeem Islam 29, Andre Botha 3-32) beat Ireland 178 in 45 overs (Niall O'Brien 38, Kevin O'Brien 37, Shafiul Islam 4-21).

February 23: Pakistan vs. Kenya (Group A), Hambantota, Sri Lanka.

Result: Pakistan won by 205 runs.

Pakistan 317 for seven in 50 overs (Kamran Akmal 55, Younis Khan 50, Misbah-ul-Haq 65, Umar Akmal 71, Thomas Odoyo 3-41) beat Kenya 112 in 33.1 overs (Collins Obuya 47, S. Afridi 5-16).

February 22: England vs. the Netherlands (Group B), VCA Ground, Nagpur.

Result: England won by six wickets.

The Netherlands 292 for six in 50 overs (W. Barresi 29, T. Cooper 47, R. ten Doeschate 119, T. de Grooth 28, P. Borren 35 not out) lost to England 296 for four in 48.4 overs (A. Strauss 88, K. Pietersen 39, J. Trott 62, I. Bell 33, P. Collingwood 30 not out, R. Bopara 30 not out).

February 21: Australia vs. Zimbabwe (Group A), Ahmedabad.

Result: Australia won by 91 runs.

Australia 262 for six in 50 overs (S. Watson 79, B. Haddin 29, R. Ponting 28, M. Clarke 58 not out) beat Zimbabwe 171 in 46.2 overs (S. Williams 28, G. Cremer 37, M. Johnson 4-19).