10th Match: Australia v New Zealand at Melbourne, 29 Jan 2002|
New Zealand innings:
BEVAN CONJURES REMARKABLE AUSTRALIAN WINFor all of the changes made over recent times at the margins of the one-day game, certain factors do not dim in importance. One is the significance of dropped catches; another is the batting of Michael Bevan.
And rarely has either been more significantly showcased than in Australia's extraordinary come-from-behind two wicket win with three balls to spare over New Zealand in the teams' VB Series clash in Melbourne tonight.
By all rights, New Zealand should have secured its first appearance in a one-day international finals series on Australian soil for 11 years.
It had Australia in desperate peril at 6/82 as it pursued an extremely distant 8/245. And, with a pace trio of Shane Bond (4/38), Dion Nash (2/50) and Andre Adams (2/52) in red-hot form, the sealing of its place in this season's VB Series deciders with a fourth straight victory over the home country seemed a formality.
But the indomitable batting of Bevan (102*) - and brilliant support from Shane Warne (29), Brett Lee (27) and Andy Bichel (13*) - conjured a remarkable reversal. Not even the rehabilitation of that old limited-overs criminal - the bouncer - seems to have compromised the talents of the man often dubbed the world's greatest one-day batsman. For this was an astonishing innings, even by his own inimitable standards.
Albeit that lapses in the field were no less important to Australia's win. Bevan should have been caught with his score at 79 as he drove to twelfth man Brendon McCullum at cover, and a looping edge off the bat of Lee - on 2 - that travelled to Daniel Vettori at third man with should also have been intercepted.
But they went down and, in an outcome that throws positions in the finals of this three-cornered series wide open again, so did a demoralised New Zealand. The result left the Kiwis clinging to a narrow four-point lead at the top of the competition points table over both Australia and South Africa and ensures that each of the three sides still has genuine claims on a berth in the finals.
The story of the match might have been the story of all of the preceding trans-Tasman rivals' battles in the series.
The New Zealanders batted first and, despite failing to mount a sizeable opening partnership, scrambled their way to an impressive total. Australia, having already portrayed chinks in its armour with the ball and in the field, was then harried into consistent error with the bat.
The home team's upper order was again suffering maladies for which there seems no antidote. As Adam Gilchrist (18) half-drove and half-cut, he chopped the ball into his stumps off an underedge; Ricky Ponting (8) snicked to second slip as he played off the deadly combination of the back foot and an outside edge; Mark Waugh (21) hooked off a top edge to deep backward square leg; and Damien Martyn (6) drove straight to cover point.
At 4/53, matters were grim. Humiliation was then courted as Steve Waugh (7) fished at a ball leaving him and Ian Harvey (12) cut, and top edged, with economical movement of his feet.
With chances to attain a finals berth of their own rapidly passing them by, and with a number of their players' rights to a place in the side being ever more seriously questioned, it was an inauspicious time for the Australians to engage in another portrayal of vulnerability.
Yet, with Bevan at the helm, the Australians instead became a model of invincibility.
He lifted the tempo in a flash, spotting and seizing upon gaps in the field and hitting the ball into them with the precision of a surgeon and the accuracy of a laser beam. Where New Zealand suddenly dallied, Bevan suddenly hurried. Though his manipulation of the strike was outstanding, his confidence in his partners and his urgent running between the wickets were also lessons in one-day skill.
With Warne, he added 61 runs in a stubborn partnership for the seventh wicket. Another 81 flowed in an association with Lee for the seventh, and he and Bichel then garnered an unbroken 24 for the ninth. In the process, he also led an acceleration that saw runs plundered at a rate of better than eight an over during the concluding 11 overs of the contest.
About the only thing he didn't do was hit the winning runs - that task falling to Bichel as he smashed two of the match's closing three deliveries powerfully through point.
New Zealand had earlier been as slow to start as it was to finish, slumping quickly to 2/19 after it had won the toss and gained the chance to bat first on a true pitch.
But it swiftly engineered a recovery that put the opposition's top order to shame, relying on controlled batting from Chris Cairns (55), Stephen Fleming (50), Chris Harris (41) and Craig McMillan (34) to ascend to its total.
It was only much later in the match that the quality of the revival was trumped.
After 30 overs of their pursuit of New Zealand's tally of 8/245, the Australians look in terminal peril at a mark of 6/108.
A period of play dominated by fine bowling and poor strokes, the evening session has been the platform for another exhibition of the ability of the tourists' bowlers and fielders to outwit the home team.
It began with Mark Waugh (21) and Adam Gilchrist (18) in aggressive touch. But it has quickly degenerated into another slide that has seen Australian wickets tumble with regularity.
Pacemen Shane Bond and Dion Nash have helped themselves to the lion's share of the spoils, claiming five of the six scalps between them.
Bond, in the midst of a purple patch of form that has seen him become the leading wicket-taker of the tournament, was the man responsible for instigating Australia's collapse, forcing Gilchrist to inside edge into his stumps and complementing that breakthrough by having Ricky Ponting (8) edge a catch to second slip shortly thereafter.
He later returned to remove Ian Harvey (12) when the all-rounder edged as he cut, with little movement of the feet, at a delivery holding its line.
In between times, Nash posed further problems for the Australians in a second spell that saw Mark Waugh (21) top edge to deep backward square leg with an ill-advised hook and Steve Waugh (7) fish at a ball leaving him marginally and feather a catch to wicketkeeper Adam Parore.
Just for good measure, there was a further wicket - this one to Andre Adams - as Damien Martyn (6) drove a catch to cover point.
Australia's most dependable one-day batsman, Michael Bevan (23*), has found a more staunch ally in Shane Warne (11*) and the pair has now survived nearly nine overs together in a bid to restore some impetus to their side's cause.
But, just like the patrons at the ground who seem oblivious to the sanctions of arrests and ejections from the ground now in place to deter unruly behaviour at the MCG, there seems no immediate way home for the struggling Australians.
Like their opponents before them today, the Australians survived the dreaded first-over curse that has plagued so many opening batsmen in this series. They even made a start to briefly inspire hopes of a dramatic return to form from their upper order, clubbing a total of 24 runs from the first three overs of the evening session.
But it was quickly undone, as key strokemakers Adam Gilchrist (14), Ricky Ponting (8), Mark Waugh (21) and Damien Martyn (6) all continued disappointing series campaigns with early departures.
Gilchrist succumbed as he played with an angled bat outside the line of off stump at Bond. The ball took a thick-under edge as the Australian vice-captain half-cut, half-drove and swiftly cannoned into his stumps.
Ponting, not for the first time in the tournament, was drawn into edging at Bond outside the line of off stump - this time watching Nathan Astle nervously take a juggling catch at the second attempt at second slip as he held on to the proceeds of an edged back foot defensive stroke.
Waugh, for his part, was lured into hooking off a top edge at Dion Nash and sending the ball spiralling into the clutches of Andre Adams stationed just inside the boundary rope at deep backward square leg. After another unconvincing innings, his departure left not only Australia - but perhaps his own career too - at a point of crisis.
And Martyn, having fallen to the trap previously, was again conquered as the New Zealanders set a ring of fielders for him in the point region. Suddenly frustrated at being unable to tick over his personal account through arguably his favourite scoring area, he lifted a ball from Adams straight to cover point and summarily joined his fallen colleagues in the pavilion.
Therein, increasingly accurate bowling from the New Zealanders had not only forced the Australians to check their instincts after a rapid-fire start but produced another surrender of early wickets.
One of the talking points of the series has been the quality of New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming's captaincy, and this was yet another example of his acumen.
The Australians had been attacking at their leisure in the opening overs, driving and cutting regally as the bowlers struggled to find their length at first. But now the New Zealand skipper tightened his field square on the off side and had his bowlers cramp the Australians for room in their attempts to play to that side of the ground.
Gilchrist's natural desire was to cut but he could neither pierce the field nor prevent his dismissal as he tried to sate his appetite for runs. And Ponting was also choked for scoring power.
Waugh and Martyn subsequently found a way of holding things together for a time. But the task of collecting runs consistently remained a formidable one and ultimately forced them into fatal errors of their own.
The Black Caps made a disappointing start, losing openers Nathan Astle (11) and Lou Vincent (5) inside the first six overs as both were conquered outside the line of off stump by the new ball attack of Glenn McGrath (2/41) and Brett Lee (1/32).
But, thanks to patient, determined and restrained innings by both Cairns (55) and Fleming (50), potential crisis at 2/19 was seamlessly transformed into comfort. Each looked at ease against the attack and offered few hints of a chance.
The only sign of real annoyance from either in fact came - in the 15th over - as Fleming appeared to challenge umpire Darrell Hair into the late signalling of no ball. Fleming had played to a field consisting of more than the stipulated two players beyond the 30-metre circle and, after driving a ball stylishly to the mid on boundary, gesticulated angrily with his bat that this was the case.
As for the New Zealand captain's skill and concentration, they faltered for probably the only time in his innings when he pushed a Shane Warne (1/56) delivery almost directly to Steve Waugh at cover and set off for an urgent single. He was only just short of his ground at the bowler's end, but the distance between bat and crease was enough to allow third umpire Richard Patterson to make his decision with complete confidence.
Suitably inspired by his fine piece of fielding to remove his opposite number, Waugh (0/33) then presented himself at the bowling crease in a one-day international for only the fourth time in two years. But, while he helped to slow the run rate, he and his fellow bowlers still found the task of making breakthroughs a challenging one.
This was particularly true against Cairns, who was tested regularly by short lifting balls but who rarely looked perturbed. It was only when he miscued a powerful drive at Warne, to slice a catch to Michael Bevan at long off, that he was dismissed.
Partnerships of 54 runs for the third wicket and 70 for the fourth effectively set the tone for the rest of afternoon. Waugh and Ian Harvey reversed the trend fleetingly with excellent pieces of work that resulted in the run outs of Fleming and Dion Nash (24) respectively, but the Australians' effort in the field was generally ragged.
Several run out opportunities were missed, there were fleeting misfields, and the ball was overthrown more than once. Damien Martyn endured an especially difficult afternoon, throwing and missing at the stumps three times with run out opportunities potentially on offer and then fumbling at fine leg - to permit the New Zealanders a total of four runs from no more than a push to mid on - as he ran to retrieve an overthrown ball.
And, before an horrendous mix-up between the batsmen caused the third run out of the innings, they again found themselves battling to halt delightful late innings resistance from Chris Harris (41).
Even newcomer Andre Adams (13*) tormented them, brilliantly hoisting the last two deliveries of the innings over and through mid off to swell the total by an invaluable ten runs.
But the Australians will at least be content in the knowledge that the ball did not behave abnormally at any stage of the afternoon. The pitch played well, and the locals will be hoping their batsmen do the same when proceedings resume.
Fleming (46*), who has made such an impression on this tour with his captaincy, has also been in increasingly impressive touch with the bat. And that trend has continued this afternoon as he has won back lost ground for his charges with an innings based around determination and controlled strokeplay.
Having walked to the crease with his team at 1/7, and then promptly seen it slide to 2/19, the left hander was slow to open his scoring account. And, even as he began to assemble the foundations of the tourists' recovery, he survived the occasional moment of anxiety. Most notable among these was the desperately close lbw appeal that he dodged with his score at 25 as he drove outside the line of an Ian Harvey inswinger.
Around those minor glitches, though, he has crafted an excellent innings.
Against the backdrop of Fleming's stolid defence and elegant and artistically proficient driving of the ball into gaps, Craig McMillan (34) and Chris Cairns (31*) have also played important hands in New Zealand's recovery.
McMillan injected some much-needed aggression into the innings upon his arrival, playing horizontal bat shots with spectacular aplomb.
An eccentric first over from Shane Warne even went for 19 runs as McMillan and Fleming each treated him with undisguised contempt.
McMillan's fiery innings was only extinguished when he forced away from his body and drove a delivery from Harvey straight to Ricky Ponting at point.
But even that breakthrough didn't represent the end of Australia's problems in trying to add further successes to the two that they had enjoyed so early in the innings.
They appeared interested initially in testing out Cairns' mobility by harnessing bounce in the pitch and bowling a series of fast, searing, lifting balls at him. But the Kiwi all-rounder - who has endured some much publicised problems with a back injury in recent days - didn't appear especially disconcerted and merely used such deliveries as sighters on an only occasionally lively surface.
His innings has subsequently featured some typically strong-arm driving to both sides of the wicket.
The Australians resorted to shuffling their fields consistently but battled to slow the rate of scoring all the same. Around Warne's early disasters, four different bowlers were even used in the space of four overs at one stage at the Members' End.
The New Zealanders, whose victory at the toss gave them their fourth straight chance to bat first against Australia in the series, also threw together their fourth different opening batting combination of the tournament.
And their decision to join Nathan Astle (11) and Lou Vincent (5) at the top of the order looked like a winner when - in staunch defiance of the trend of this series - an opening partnership wasn't severed in the first over of an innings.
They actually nearly survived three times as long in tandem as many of their predecessors, lasting until Vincent drove loosely at an off cutter from McGrath at the end of the third over. Vincent's fundamental mistake was to fail to move his feet as he lashed at a delivery short of a driveable length, ensuring that the ball found a thin inside edge on its way through to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.
The crowd promptly indulged in a Mexican wave - the legality or illegality of which in Melbourne now seems to be anyone's guess - to celebrate the dismissal.
And there was further cause for them to rejoice when Astle was surprised by a delivery from Lee that rose sharply from just short of a good length. In attempting to defend, the experienced right hander ripped his top hand from the bat and directed a comfortable catch to Shane Warne at first slip.
Captain Stephen Fleming (19*) didn't look completely assured as he began but began to gather singles at a good rate and also began to drive more expansively.
The arrival of Craig McMillan (32*), searching for his first genuinely long innings of the series, seemed to help his partner too. McMillan was characteristically busy from close to the start of his innings and especially savage in his treatment of anything sufficiently wide and short to permit him the chance to cut behind point. He also reserved a touch of ignominy for McGrath when he reacted to the sight of a ball lifting toward shoulder height down the leg side by stepping fractionally inside its line and helping himself to a gloriously-hooked six just behind square leg.
McMillan's intent was also reflected in an immediate attack on Shane Warne as the leg spinner was introduced to the attack in the 15th over. With the field still up, he lofted a ball over square leg; advanced and hammered another over mid off; and - with the two-eyed stance that he used in Adelaide on Saturday re-appearing again - then glanced him impudently past a short fine leg.
A total of 19 runs were thumped from Warne's first over as Fleming joined in by imperiously on and square driving. The Australians' concentration was also sufficiently disrupted to ensure that, in the process, they surrendered a no ball too with three men stationed outside the 30-metre circle.
Having beaten their hosts in all three of the sides' meetings to this point of the series, the New Zealanders have already made an excellent start in this one. Captain Stephen Fleming - whose ability to win the toss in Australia has now become habitual - has called correctly for the sixth time in the seven Trans-Tasman battles this summer.
And, for the fourth time in four Australia-New Zealand matches in this series, the New Zealanders will bat first; aim to establish an imposing target; and then hope that their bowlers can suffocate the home team's so far underperforming top order in the chase.
There has been a further heartening development for Fleming's charges with the news that Chris Cairns has been passed fit to play in the match. Doubts had been cast yesterday over the brilliant all-rounder's availability because of ongoing soreness in his back.
That represents a major boost as the Black Caps chase a victory that would guarantee their country's passage to the finals of this triangular tournament for the first time since 1990-91.
The two changes that have been made to the tourists' eleven are the inclusions of all-rounders Dion Nash and Andre Adams for batsman Brendon McCullum and pace bowler James Franklin.
The Australians, still searching for a consistently successful eleven, have meanwhile reacted to Saturday's 77-run loss to the Kiwis by making two changes to their line-up. Brett Lee returns after an absence of three games, replacing fellow speedster Jason Gillespie. The all-rounder's role in the team is again the subject of change, with local player Ian Harvey selected to replace Andrew Symonds.
Mark Waugh retains his spot and is again expected to open the batting with Adam Gilchrist. But scrutiny of the out-of-sorts Waugh's entitlement to a berth in the side will surely only intensify if he makes his fifth low score in six appearances in the series later tonight.
Date-stamped : 29 Jan2002 - 14:41