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The Electronic Telegraph Australia v West Indies, Group B
Peter Deeley - 30 May 1999

Australia reduce 'cricket carnival' to a dreary crawl

Australia (111-4) bt West Indies (110) by 6 wkts

This was a poor advertisement for the World Cup, spoiled by the complicated points system which actually encouraged Australia to adopt go-slow tactics when they were within sight of victory.

With Glenn McGrath finally rediscovering his form, Australia were always likely to coast to victory. But they dragged out the finale to such an extent that the last 19 runs took 13 overs to arrive - not because of any particular pressure by the West Indies bowlers.

It was a drab contest and the crowd heckled their discontent as the game degenerated into a farce, in its latter stages. It all sat uneasily with the concept of a 'carnival of cricket' but Australia were legitimately taking advantage of the World Cup points system. Having lost to New Zealand and Pakistan, they needed one win to take into the next round and give them any realistic chance of further progress.

A World Cup spokesman said last night that the ``issue'' produced by the game was being examined and a statement would be made in the next few days.

By crossing the finishing line well within the target of 47.2 overs, Australia go above West Indies on run-rate in their group. Defeat for West Indies probably condemns them to an early flight home unless Scotland perform some miracle against New Zealand today . The outcome of that Edinburgh contest decides whether Australia finish second or third in Group B.

Both captains emphasised that they had in no way put their heads together to agree such a contrived ending. Brian Lara bridled at the use of the word 'collusion'. ``We don't play our cricket that way,'' he said tersely.

Australia's Steve Waugh admitted that the final half-hour was not ``good entertainment'' for the crowd, adding, ``but it wasn't our fault.'' He said the tactic had been discussed at the team meeting on the eve of the game.

Waugh added: ``I don't know about moral, but it's in the rules,'' conceding that perhaps the rules needed changing. ``We're professionals and at the end of the day we are answerable to our people if we don't win the World Cup.''

``We want to make it as tough as possible for New Zealand. It's our option to play as we see fit.''

Waugh, too, denied suggestions of collusion though he did say ``it was pretty obvious what was going on out there''. Lara admitted that the longer Australia had remained at the crease ``the more, slightly, it was in our favour. Australia saw a way to take two points into the next round.''

In Australia's first four games McGrath took only five wickets and his captain observed then: ``He's feeling frustrated. As a great fast bowler he knows he isn't at his best.''

From his first delivery in this game, McGrath's line was precise and by his third over he was in full cry, first getting Sherwin Campbell caught low at second slip and punishing Jimmy Adams' lack of footwork with his next.

Lara avoided the hat-trick but McGrath saved his very best for the West Indies captain. A full-length ball pushed Lara back on his stumps, the pace squared him up and then the ball nipped away to flick off-stump.

With three wickets in 13 balls and West Indies in a state of demoralistion, McGrath retired to reappear at the end to further torture the lower order and finish finish with the remarkable figures of 8.4-3-14-5.

It was left to opener Ridley Jacobs to play a lone hand as Shane Warne took over as chief destroyer with three for 11 in his 10 overs. Jacobs carried his bat for 49 and hit three of West Indies' five boundaries.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk