Australia's unconvincing start|
John Polack in Worcester - 16 May 1999
As expected, Australia has completed a six wicket victory over Scotland in the teams' opening Group B contest at the New Road ground in Worcester today. Led to victory by a combination of Mark Waugh's batting and Shane Warne's bowling, the Australians completed their triumph when Steve Waugh pushed a single to cover off the fifth ball of the forty-fifth over.
But while the bare statistics point to a comfortable win, this was far from the easy triumph that the Australian team and many commentators may have been anticipating. In honesty, the Australians were ragged in all departments today and they did little to dispel the widespread suspicion that they have become an under-achieving side under Steve Waugh's captaincy.
Apart from a promising beginning to the tournament from the always controversial Shane Warne, who took 3/39 from ten overs, their bowling and fielding was especially poor. In compiling such a low total, they conceded a ridiculous 22 wides and 8 no-balls - figures which, in themselves, do much to tell the tale of the Australians' waywardness and lack of control. The fielding was little better; three chances that should clearly have been taken were spilt and the weight of fumbles and overthrows mounted up the further the innings progressed.
As if to completely underline the unsatisfactory nature of their day's work, the batting was also well below par and only the Waugh brothers, Steve adding an unbeaten 49 to Mark's 67, could have taken any comfort from their performance. Adam Gilchrist (6), Ricky Ponting (33) and Darren Lehmann (0) all surrendered their wickets too easily against an attack far less potent than those they will face in their upcoming matches against New Zealand and Pakistan.
Lending credence to the old adage that a little enthusiasm can go a long way, the Scots meanwhile played exactly the competitive style of game about which coach Jim Love had been enthusing in the lead-up to the tournament. Whilst their early batting was not really close to the mark, their middle and late order players, foremost among them George Salmond, Gavin Hamilton and James Brinkley, performed with distinction, lifting them to a tally of 7/181. Urged on by what will surely be one of the most boisterous crowds that will attend any of the matches to be contested during this seventh World Cup, their bowlers then worked hard, albeit without ever looking capable of inspiring a very unlikely win, to contain and frustrate the Australians. John Blain was their best and his rhythm, aggression and fire was a delight to watch. Asim Butt also returned impressive figures - his 1/21 off 10 overs a tribute to the tightness of his line and length.
At a spectacularly pleasant venue, this was - above all - a novel day's cricket. Indeed, it might even be said that this game took on more of the characteristics of the village contest so integral to the sport in this part of the world than a conventional One-Day International. A vocal and partisan Scottish gallery; some woefully substandard play; a huge range of new figures and names for international cricket followers to behold; and even the appearance of two streakers all added to a bizarre first-up spectacular.