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Australia flex their pace muscle again

Aussies are the only top team in the World Cup to rely on pace in the sub-continent; and Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson showed just why. Abhijeet Kulkarni reports. Scorecard

cricket Updated: Feb 26, 2011 00:41 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

Just before walking out for the toss, Australian captain Ricky Ponting patted the back of his opposite number, Daniel Vettori, and exchanged pleasantries. Sometime later, the entire Australian squad, including their 11-member support staff, came out to show solidarity and observe a minute's silence for the earthquake victims of Christchurch.

Those niceties vanished once Ponting handed the ball to his pace battery. Aussies are the only top team in the World Cup to rely on pace in the sub-continent; and Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson showed just why.

Hot pace
The late night drizzle on Monday meant there was some juice in the otherwise placid track, and the pacers needed no further invitation to set up a thumping seven-wicket victory for the defending champions.

In contrast, New Zealand pacers struggled to find rhythm and Australia achieved the 207-run target in just 34 overs and also retain the Chappell-Hadlee trophy - the symbol of bilateral supremacy - as well.

The game was effectively settled in the first hour. The Aussies bowled with hostility, and though Tait and Johnson shared the spoils with seven wickets between them, Lee was the pick of the lot.

Like old times
The 34-year-old set the ball rolling with a maiden opening over, and then almost knocked off Martin Guptill's helmet with a delivery that took off after pitching at good length, in his second over. It was vintage Lee.

Scott Styris and James Franklin were guilty of throwing their bats at wide deliveries while Jesse Ryder was done in by a Johnson outswinger. And when Tait shattered Ross Taylor's woodwork with a yorker, New Zealand were staring down the barrel at 73 for 6.

Nathan McCullum (52) steadied the ship with Jamie How (22), and then added 54 runs for the eighth wicket with captain Vettori. But the return of Johnson and Lee ended their fight back.

No problem for Aussies
The Australian reply was fast and furious with neither Shane Watson(62) nor Brad Haddin (55) coming under any pressure.

They added 133 runs together in just 18 overs, and by the time Hamish Bennett sent them back, the contest was truly over.