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Champions still seem down & under

cricket Updated: Feb 22, 2011 02:04 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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Defending champions Australia failed to shake off their lethargic batting against spin before pacing themselves to go past Zimbabwe in their opening match of the World Cup.

Skipper Ricky Ponting wouldn't be happy with the slow scoring of his top order batsmen but would be relieved the way the fast bowlers kept the opposition on a tight leash.

Defending what wouldn't be a safe total against teams that matter, Ponting let loose Brett Lee and Shaun Tait, before Mitchell Johnson took over and tormented the batsmen the most. Pressed into action in the fifth over, the left-armer was hostile in a six-over spell and displayed what Australia would rely on in this competition.

Keeping it tight

Zimbabwe started well though. Off-spin, leg-spin and left-arm orthodox, they confronted the champions with a variety of spinners, who accounted for 39 of the 50 overs. They didn't extract great turn but bowled a tight line with minimal width. Runs came in a trickle in the beginning and although the scoring increased in the middle overs, it was not until the last 10 overs that the shackles were broken.

Watson breaks free

The run rate didn't cross three till the 14th over bowled by Chris Mpofu which produced 17 runs. Shane Watson looked to break free, and with Ponting running hard between wickets, added 68 runs between the 20th and 30th over. Ponting's aggressive running led to his downfall as Mpofu broke the stumps with a direct hit from deep mid-wicket. Australia owed their decent total to Michael Clarke.