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Watson and Clarke star in Australia's easy win

G. Viswanath

Lee, Tait and Johnson prove too hot for Zimbabwe; Australia's amazing unconquered run continues

Ahmedabad: Australia executed things according to plan and marched to victory by 91 runs on the opening day of its World Cup campaign against Zimbabwe at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, here on Monday.

Success was never in doubt after it posted a total of 262 though there was nothing flattering about its performance against the Zimbabwe spinners which it faced for 39 overs.

The Australian pace pack of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson proved incisive and off-spinner Jason Krejza too got into the act, taking wickets after being given the freedom to toss the ball. Earlier, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke impressed with the bat.

Excelled in parts

Australia excelled in parts to continue its unconquered run in the competition which touched the 30-figure mark on a day when the local officials announced an attendance of 9569.

It was horror day, though, for umpires Asoka de Silva and Richard Kettleborough who appeared to be confused and uncertain about the bounce of the wicket and had to reverse their decisions following demands for reviews in the case of Brad Haddin, Watson and Craig Irvine.

Fortunately, the decision review system is in operation from the league phase and Zimbabwe benefited from it, getting correct decisions against Watson and Haddin.

While Watson looked firm, struck a few big blows and compiled a 92-ball 79, Clarke was easily the most relaxed and comfortable Australian batsman on show.

Competent

One of two players in the Australian ranks who can counter spin with efficiency and élan — the other being skipper Ricky Ponting — Clarke showed competency and class against the Zimbabwe spinners and took over from Watson who had laid the foundation.

There was no doubt that it was an accomplished and responsible knock from the Australian vice-captain.

Clarke displayed character after the fall of Watson in the 32nd over. For most part, he bisected the field, ran the singles and twos hard and waited until the first over of the batting Power Play to strike his first big blow against off-spinner Utseya.

He paid due respect to left-arm spinner Raymond Price, Utseya and leg-spinner Graeme Cremer who were strategically deployed by skipper Elton Chigumbura.

The circumstances created by Ponting's exit following a direct hit from Mpofu from deep mid-wicket forced Clarke to steer clear of risks. However, he couldn't restrain himself for long and a lofted drive over Utseya and a splendid inside-out stroke off Mpofu saw him race to 51 off 50 balls.

Clarke was the dominant partner in the Power Play the team opted from the 41st over, as 30 balls from Utseya, Price and Mpofu produced 32 runs. Clarke helped Australia take control of the proceedings by keeping the Zimbabwe spinners at bay and put together 63 off 73 balls with Cameron White. The Australian vice-captain, who remained unbeaten, faced just two balls in the final over.

Cautious start

Earlier, the Australian openers Watson and Haddin made a cautious start after Ponting opted to bat. Never tempted to play in their natural style, the two showed the intent to play the ball on its merit after Mpofu touched 131 kmph off the first ball.

The tall fast bowler's opening burst of five overs cost him only 13 runs and he drifted just once towards Watson's front pad which the opener capitalised upon.

Watson and Haddin reached 50 off the first ball of the 15th over; but signs of their weakness against spin was evident until Clarke arrived.

Australia: S. Watson lbw b Cremer 79 ( 92b, 8x4, 1x6), B. Haddin lbw b Utseya 29 ( 66b, 3x4), R. Ponting (run out) 28 ( 36b), M. Clarke (not out) 58 ( 55b, 4x4), C. White b Mpofu 22 ( 36b), D. Hussey b Price 14 ( 8b, 1x4, 1x6), S. Smith c Chakabva b Mpofu 11 ( 4b, 1x4, 1x6), M. Johnson (not out) 7 ( 3b, 1x4); Extras (lb-7, w-7): 14; Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs): 262.

Fall of wickets: 1-61, 2-140, 3-144, 4-207, 5-241, 6-254.

Zimbabwe bowling: Mpofu 9-0-58-2, Price 10-0-43-1, Utseya 10-2-43-1, Cremer 10-0-41-1; Taylor 3-0-23-0, Chigumbura 2-0-18-0, Williams 6-0-29-0.

Zimbabwe: B. Taylor b Tait 16 ( 24b, 1x4), C. Coventry c & b Lee 14 ( 24b, 1x4, 1x6), T. Taibu c Watson b Johnson 7 ( 17b, 1x4), C. Ervine lbw b Johnson 0 ( 6b), E. Chigumbura c Haddin b Krejza 14 ( 25b, 2x4), S. Williams c Watson b Tait 28 ( 40b, 1x4, 1x6), R. Chakabva lbw b Krejza 6 ( 18b), P. Utseya c Ponting b Hussey 24 ( 45b 1x4) , A. Cremer c Haddin b Johnson ( 51b, 4x4), R. Price (not out) 5 ( 19b), C. Mpofu c Haddin b Johnson 2 ( 11b); Extras (b-4, lb-9, w-3, nb-2): 18; Total (in 46.2 overs): 171.

Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-40, 3-40, 4-44, 5-88, 6-96, 7-104, 8-153, 9-167.

Australia bowling: Tait 9-1-34-2, Lee 8-1-34-1, Johnson 9.2-2-19-4, Krejza 8-0-28-2, Watson 3-0-7-0, Smith 5-0-24-0, Hussey 4-1-12-1 .

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