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May 30, 1999

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Aussies win match and ill-will

Faisal Shariff

The Aussies came up with an exhilarating bowling performance at the Old Trafford, Manchester, today to cruise through to the Super Six.

But in doing so, they put neighbour New Zealand's chances of qualifying for the next round in jeopardy.

Though Australia overhauled the West Indies total of 110 with almost nine overs to spare, they invited jeers from the crowd that had come to see an exciting game between two top-class teams, but were forced to watch an unsporting side manipulate the ouster of another by frittering away overs.

It was in Australia's interest to delay their victory to prevent the Kiwis from advancing to the Super Six, because if New Zealand went through, Australia would move into the next round with no points as the Kiwis had defeated the Aussies in their league encounter.

On the other hand, if the Windies get through, the Aussies will have two points to their credit, from today's victory.

The Australians could argue that they were well within the rules to do what they did. But cricket is not governed by rules alone. If that were so, why was Trevor Chappell's underarm ball against New Zealand condemned the world over? That was within the rules of the game too, and Australia won that game as well, and a lot of ill will with it.

The year is 1987. Courtney Walsh runs in to deliver the last ball of the match with Pakistan needing two runs to win and having only one wicket in hand. Non-striker Salim Jaffer, in all his nervousness, backs up too far and finds Walsh ready to knock of the bails, then stop, glare at him, and walk back to his mark.

West Indies went on to lose that match, but Walsh won many hearts that day with his gesture. Defeat can be more graceful sometimes than victory that is gained by negative tactics.

But this act should not dilute the praise the Aussies deserved for their display on the field today. Glenn McGrath bowled his heart out to return with career-best figures of 5/14 to knock the stuffing out of the Windies. The delivery that dismissed Lara was the ball of the tournament so far. Lara had the stumps covered as he faced up to defend that one from McGrath to find the cherry move just that bit and silently brush the bail on its way to the keeper. There is little you could say was wrong about what Lara did to counter that gem of a ball from McGrath, except that maybe he was a trifle slow in playing the shot.

The Windies caved in for 110 in the 47th over and one wonders what their plight would have been if it hadn't been for a stubborn effort from wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs who remained unbeaten on 49. Jacobs held his end up even though he failed to get support from anyone else. Warne got the prize wicket of Shivnarine Chanderpaul who was expected to hold the innings together after Lara departed with little on the board.

Australia started their innings losing Mark Waugh in only the second over as he edged one from Curtly Ambrose to the 'keeper for 3. Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting put on 33 for the second wicket before Gilchrist edged one onto his stumps. Darren Lehmann and Ponting fell to amazing catches by Jimmy Adams and Chanderpaul to give the Windies a sniff of victory, but that remained just a sniff.

Ambrose got the ball to do all sorts of tricks except make it talk. He had the Aussies ducking and trying their best to survive his overs. Steve Waugh survived a pretty confident shout for lbw from Ambrose who seemed pretty sure he had his man.

The determined Aussie skipper and Michael Bevan then got together and ensured against any further collapse. When Australia finally won, Waugh had scored 19 off 73 balls while Bevan, the finest finisher of the one-day game, had managed 20 off 69 balls. Some finishing, that!

Despite the defeat, the Windies seem to be the team to make it through to the Super Six ahead of the Kiwis who need to win rather handsomely against minnows Scotland to have any hopes of qualifying -- courtesy the dawdling run chase by the Kangaroos.

The equation for New Zealand is simple. If they score 300 they have to restrict Scotland to 185; if they score 250, they have to restrict Scotland to 132. If Scotland bat first and score 150, then the Kiwis will have to reach the target in 134 balls (that is, in 22.2 overs) @ 6.76 runs per over. If Scotland score 200, then New Zealand will have to reach the target in 147 balls (24.3 overs) @ 8.16 runs per over.

If the Kiwis do manage to get through, it will not only be a valiant effort but also a fitting reply to the Aussies who tried their best to have them knocked out of the tournament.

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