Rediff Logo Cricket
May 20, 1999

Sections NEWS

send this report to a friend

Cairns smashes Aussies out of the park

Prem Panicker

'Kiwis upset Aussies' as alternate headline?

Somehow, I don't think so. Both teams were ragged in their first outing, but today, the Kiwis outperformed Australia in every single department, and were easily the better side through the full 100 overs -- or rather, the 95.2 overs it took them to finish the game.

Steven Waugh, winning the toss, opted to have a bat on a Cardiff pitch with a good layer of grass and a hint of moisture, which meant conditions would be reasonably good for seam bowlers early on. A rather strange decision and one of several from Waugh on the day.

With the ball, Geoff Allott was easily New Zealand's hero. At the top, he took out both openers with dream deliveries, Mark Waugh getting one slanted across to hit line of off, then straighten to catch him plumb in front (very reminiscent, in fact, of the way Allott got his first couple of wickets in his previous outing). Adam Gilchrist, who has been hyped as one of the most electric strikers of this tournament, struggled against the seaming ball, seemingly unable to work the ball off the square and finally falling to the away seaming ball which he edged to slip.

Ricky Ponting and Darren Lehmann then batted with a lot of commonsense, the former settling for an anchor role while the left-hander took on the bowling. Clean driving through the line, very good calling and running between wickets and, when the Kiwi bowlers dropped short, fierce pulling saw the Aussies pulling smoothly away from trouble and into a seemingly winning position.

Not that they had things their own way -- Gavin Larsen, who they call the Postman because he always delivers, produced a superb spell in the middle, going for under three at the halfway stage of his allotted quota and putting the fidgets into both batsmen. Larsen had able support from Harris and Astle -- but if you examine videos of the Kiwis when they are on song, you realise that the real key lies in their fielding.

Their outcricket is superb. Electric heeled, deadly accurate with their throws, the Kiwi fielders put so much pressure on the batsmen with their stops and throws that they make ordinary bowling look almost unplayable.

At the 30 over mark, Australia with 120+ on the board for the loss of two looked good for 250+ overall, which would have been a winning total on this track. However, this was the period when the dibbly-dob bowlers were in operation, and Australia lost its collective cool. First Ponting, then Lehmann, fell trying to force the pace against bowlers whose deliveries seemingly took forever to traverse the 22 yards from wicket to wicket, and Australia were pegged back just when they needed to be going good.

In between, Steve Waugh, who has been having a bad run with the bat of late, was out trying to swat Harris from off to leg, only for Astle at midwicket to hold with the kind of brilliance that, when the Kiwis are in the field, is pretty much routine.

Around this point, the ball gained complete ascendancy. Gavin Larsen further turned the screws on the Aussies by producing, of all things, a maiden in the 43rd over of the innings -- an incredible performance by any yardstick.

Runs were the crying need, boundaries were proving impossible to find, the running between wickets became increasingly risk-prone and the inevitable happened -- Bevan played one down at his feet and called, Lee responded, Nash, the bowler, raced the non-striker down the length of the pitch, fielding and throwing while diving headlong, to take out another wicket.

Bevan -- being billed the best one day player of all time -- was being given no room for his strokes. And with the Kiwi fielders on hair-trigger alert, those tip and run ploys weren't working either. Allott came back at that point, went wide of the crease, angled one in on off and middle and a frustrated Bevan, aiming a huge hoik, was bowled through the gate.

Shane Warne struck a few good ones, but Allott, who bowled his last spell as superbly as his first, took him out with another beauty -- a ball swinging in late, pitching middle then running away off the seam to go past Warne's edge and take out the off stump.

Australia finished on 213 for 8 in 50 overs. And if you want to know why a team with such good strokeplayers fumbled so badly, one incident is enough to underline the reason. Off the penultimate ball of the over, Fleming slapped a flat bat hit past the bowler that looked headed to the fence. Nash, wide at long off, raced around, got to the ball as it hit the deck and bounced and seeing that he wouldn't be able to grasp it, stop and throw in in time to stop the third, used his palm like a tennis racket, slapping the ball to his fielding partner at long on -- a move that was conceived, and executed, in a fraction of the time it takes to tell it.

That kind of fielding is what is going to make this New Zealand side a deadly dangerous outfit.

Came their turn to bat, and Mathew Horne walked back early, proof of the fact that even David Shepherd is not infallible. Adam Dale, who has a vicious breakback, sent one through the batsman, beating the edge and taking the thigh pad and 'Shep' gave the caught behind.

Nathan Astle, struggling for form, then played a completely irresponsible one handed slap at a ball from Fleming that left him late to take the thick outer edge for point to hold. And Stephen Fleming -- another struggler -- was taken out by a dream yorker from Glenn McGrath that started off around middle, swung to leg very late, pitched almost on the Kiwi skipper's toe and crashed into the stumps, and the Kiwi cause looked doomed.

Craig McMillan, batting with a pulled hamstring that reduced his footwork to the miniscule, struck a few blows standing where he was before the inevitable one hit too many accounted for his wicket, and the Kiwi cause at 49 for four in the 16th over looked hopeless indeed.

Sheer grit from Roger Twose, and a coldly calculating knock from Chris Cairns, won the day for the batting side. Twose was put under the hammer by McGrath -- a kicker from good length took the glove and landed just short of slip, another bouncer crashed into his body, a third saw him hooking desperately -- and reflexively -- for Fleming to hold at third man, only to realise that a no ball had been called. It was trial by fire, and as happens to the best steel, he came through harder for the ordeal.

Cairns for his part eschewed his trademark rashness, and settled down to play a normal innings. He stroked softly in the V, he pushed the singles, he shielded his partner from some of McGrath's worst excesses and when Shane Warne came on, he first hoisted him over long on, and right out of the ground, for six; then repeated the treatment to Steve Waugh; then in Warne's final spell produced an incredible straight hit that not only cleared the ground, but came within a whisker of clearing a little river flowing just outside it, behind the bowler's back. It was the kind of clinical big-hitting he is famed for, and today, he played that role to perfection, ensuring that the ask for the Kiwis never went above the 5.5 an over mark at the very highest.

By the time Cairns fell to a mishit, the target was just sixteen runs with overs to spare and wickets -- in Parore, Harris, Nash, Allott and Larsen -- to follow. Cairns had, thus, effectively sealed the Aussie fate with his bat. Parore merely rubbed it in when he pulled McGrath for a fierce six, before Twose contemptuously swatted Fleming over long on for a four to finish the thing off in style.

By any yardstick, Steve Waugh goofed. Well though Cairns and Twose were batting at that stage, they were still finding run-making difficult when Waugh brought himself on. Why would he do that? He had five regular bowlers, at that stage they had all done their job, and it was apparent that Cairns in particular would look to break out against a non-regular. That non-regular was Waugh, and he went. And in going for big runs, he eased the pressure on the Kiwi batsmen.

As if that wasn't enough, he then brought Bevan on to bowl, and gave the Kiwis more easy pickings. 15 off 3 doesn't sound too bad, but the point was that these runs came with no pressure on the batsmen, chipped that many more away from the target, and further eased the pressure, creating the right situation for Cairns to launch into Warne when he was reintroduced.

The bowling card tells the story -- Adam Dale, who bowled an outstanding first spell, still had 5 overs left in his kitty when the game ended. While Waugh and Bevan, combined, went for 40 off their seven.

When Waugh finally remembered McGrath and brought him on to try and get a wicket or three (shades of Henry Olonga?) it was way too late. With the target in sniffing distance, the Kiwis settled scores with the old enemy, smashing him around with an abandon rendered carefree by the knowledge that they had so little to get, and so many more batsmen waiting in the hut to help them past the target.

One team used its resources to perfection. Another grossly mismanaged it. Want to take a guess which team won?


 Name: Email:
 Post a message: