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Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Monday, 21 February 2011

Cricket World Cup: Holders Australia crush Zimbabwe

World Cup Group A, Ahmedabad:
Australia 262-6 (50 overs) bt Zimbabwe 171 (46.2 overs) by 91 runs

Match scorecard

Australia's Shane Watson

Australia hammer sorry Zimbabwe

By Jamie Lillywhite

Defending champions Australia began their 2011 World Cup campaign with a 91-run win over Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad.

Spin-dominated Zimbabwe restricted the Australians to 262-6, Shane Watson top-scoring with eight fours and a six in his 72 from 92 deliveries.

Michael Clarke added an unbeaten 58 and though Zimbabwe's reply began brightly they were finally dismissed for 171.

Left-armer Mitchell Johnson took 4-19 as the Aussies extended their winning run in the competition to 24 games.

Australia's 30th successive World Cup match without defeat - given the 1999 semi-final was tied and settled on run rate - may have unearthed some batting frailties.

But it also proved that the bowling attack can defend modest totals as they seek a fourth straight title, although they would have liked to have finished the match rather earlier.

Australia's openers started slowly after captain Ricky Ponting chose to bat first at the Gujarat Stadium on the banks of the Sabarmati river, where South Africa amassed 365-2 in 2010.

Only 28 came from the 10 compulsory powerplay overs bowled by rangy paceman Chris Mpofu in partnership with slow left-armer Ray Price, ranked fourth in the one-day world rankings.

After 13, with the bowling powerplay in operation, Brad Haddin and Watson had scored only one boundary apiece.

But Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura brought Mpofu back for a change of ends to bowl the 14th over and he was dispatched for four fours, prompting a swift return for Price.

Haddin saw a defensive shot trickle back on to middle stump and not dislodge the bails, but Zimbabwe decided to refer a rejected leg before wicket appeal and the replays led to the wicketkeeper's dismissal for 29.

Brendan Taylor
Taylor is comprehensively bowled by Aussie paceman Tait

Watson reached 50 from 69 balls in the 25th over with his fifth four and when the hundred came up for Australia in the next, all but six overs from Mpofu had been of spin.

A fearsome pull from Watson sailed several rows back to bring up the 50 partnership from 54 balls but the Australia opener followed Haddin's path back to the pavilion.

Zimbabwe were convinced umpire Richard Kettleborough should have given Watson out lbw, and despite a big stride forward to leg-spinner Graeme Cremer replays resulted in the decision being reversed.

Then in the next over there was further success for the Zimbabweans after Clarke called Ponting for a second run to deep mid-wicket.

The 36-year-old Australia captain, who missed the recent 6-1 one-day series win over England, had made 28 from 36 balls but unusually had no boundaries to his name.

Ponting was perhaps surprised when Mpofu's throw headed for the bowler's end, and certainly was when it cannoned into the bails and ran him out by two feet, the skipper making his feelings clear in no uncertain terms as he departed.

With 40 overs gone the batting powerplay was taken, a customary tactic for the holders, who were in need of impetus after 10 overs had elapsed without a boundary.

The five-over segment brought 35 runs, Mpofu was trusted with the final over of it and he dismissed Cameron White for 22 - another innings containing no fours - off the inside edge on to the stumps.

Clarke reached 50 from as many balls, as 15 came from the 48th over bowled by Mpofu, but Price looked to have stemmed the danger when he bowled David Hussey (14), who had hit his second ball for six.

However, Steve Smith flat-batted his first two deliveries for four and six to take Australia beyond 250, and the Zimbabweans then had to face up to Shaun Tait and Brett Lee bowling in excess of 90mph under the floodlights.

But Charles Coventry got off the mark with a sumptuous cover drive for four off Lee and added a calypso-style slash that went like an Exocet missile over point for six as 21 runs were rattled up after only four overs.

Lee unsettled the bespectacled batsman, who made an unbeaten 194 against Bangladesh in 2009 and briefly shared the highest one-day international score, with some short deliveries at express pace.

The Zimbabwe team may have wanted to send their opening batsman to Coventry after he got in no position to play a pull shot and Lee held on to the top-edge when it finally descended from the lights.

After 10 overs the Zimbabweans, who were bowled out for 85 by West Indies on this ground in 2006, were still well placed at 39-1.

But Tatenda Taibu was then smartly taken low to his left at wide slip by Watson off Johnson, who also touched 90mph on occasions.

And in the next over Brendan Taylor, who had earlier played a delightful late cut over the slips, lost his middle stump via the pad and was unceremoniously sent on his way by Tait.

Chris Mpofu
The Zimbabwe batsmen were subjected to some hostile bowling

Johnson made it three wickets in three overs in the bowling powerplay when another inswinging full length delivery trapped left-hander Craig Ervine (0) in front.

Umpire Asoka de Silva said not out but the referral proved otherwise and the third lbw decision of the match was overturned.

Left-hander Sean Williams launched Jason Krejza over mid-wicket for six but the off-spinner ended a partnership of 44 when Chigumbura (14) looped a catch to Haddin off the glove as he swept, the ever pragmatic wicketkeeper taking the bails off after the batsman left the crease just in case the catch was not given.

Williams edged a searing full-length ball from Tait and was superbly caught to his right by an unsighted Watson at slip in the 25th over.

Prosper Utseya shared a defiant 49 in 12 overs with Cremer, who top-scored for Zimbabwewith with 37, but was well caught by Ponting at short mid-wicket and Johnson warmed up for Friday's match against New Zealand with the final two wickets courtesy of neatly taken edges.

Ponting was pleased with his team's start to the tournament and said: "It was tough for us to get any pace on the ball, the wicket was really slow and there wasn't any bounce.

"We just kept ourselves in the game, got ourselves a decent total and we knew that if we bowled well we would have enough runs.

"That'll be pretty much our philosophy throughout. Around the time of the ball change, you need to have wickets in hand through the middle overs. I thought the way we approached it was about getting through those tough times. We could have got a few more runs but, overall, a pretty good start.

"There wasn't much in it for the quicks. I thought Johnson was outstanding and Tait's just working up to match fitness so to get eight or nine overs out of him was a bonus."

Zimbabwe skipper Chigumbura admitted: "We have to work on our batting. Overall I thought the bowling and fielding was superb. It was a good wicket to bat on. We just lost too many wickets up front."

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see also
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