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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
Hayden back to brutal best
By Paresh Soni
BBC Sport in Antigua

Matthew Hayden batting against West Indies
It's all about power

Matthew Hayden
Matthew Hayden, to use his own words, is "having a lot of fun" at the World Cup - but it's unlikely opposition bowlers are saying the same.

The 35-year-old left-hander has smashed the fastest century in the tournament's history and the best score by an Australian in successive matches.

In St Kitts, he took advantage of a perfect batting surface and small ground to bludgeon four sixes in reaching three figures off only 66 balls against South Africa. It earned him honorary citizenship of the tiny Caribbean island.

Here at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, however, batting was far from straightforward early on against West Indies pacemen Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor, under heavy cloud cover on an untested pitch.

Indeed, the Queenslander needed 18 balls to score his first run and might have been run out before he launched another savage assault.

A stunning display of clean hitting brought four more maximums and 158 runs in total off 143 balls, a magnificent knock which was put into context by the fact that the next highest score was 41.

606: DEBATE

"I'd have to say that was one of his top innings, not just because of the score but because of the adjustment he made coming from the group games in St Kitts," Aussie coach John Buchanan said.

"He came into this after a travel day, a short training session and batted on a wicket that was significantly different, on a ground that was significantly different, and against a bowling attack that was significantly different."

It seems incredible, then, that Hayden might not even have been playing in this World Cup.

His career at the highest level appeared to be in jeopardy after a miserable time in the Ashes series defeat in England in 2005.

The uncompromising Hayden has never been shy to express his confidence and there was little sympathy for him - not that he would have expected any.

Matthew Hayden with the Prime Minister of St Kitts & Nevis, Denzil Douglas
Hayden receives honorary citizenship of St Kitts & Nevis

He was dropped from the one-day team for a year but the selectors persisted with him in Tests and how he has repaid them: he averages 55 in both Tests and ODIs since then.

Buchanan added: "The replacements did a reasonable job but he has batted harder to get back in and he's always believed he should be in the one-day side."

Apart from the big hitting here, there have been several highlights in that period, the sweetest of which was the 153 he made against England, putting on 279 with great friend Andrew Symonds, in the fourth Test of the winter Ashes whitewash.

It would have been the perfect way to bow out, but while venerable colleagues like long-time opening partner Justin Langer and Shane Warne called time, Hayden expressed his determination to carry on.

The weakness against fuller deliveries has not been totally eradicated, but Hayden has shown an ability to innovate even at this late stage.

He said after battering South Africa: "It's all about power. The game has changed enormously and teams are just taking the game away with boundary-hitting performances."

For a man who once swam through shark-infested waters, this was a challenge he was always likely to meet head on.

Not even a broken toe suffered just over a month ago while batting in New Zealand was going to keep him out of the World Cup.

He overcame that pain and is now inflicting large doses of it on bowlers.



SEE ALSO
Australia's World Cup squad
15 Feb 07 |  Australia
BBC World Cup coverage
21 Feb 07 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2007 schedule
20 Jul 05 |  Cricket


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