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The Daily Star, Bangladesh 5th Super Six Match: Australia v Zimbabwe
Shakil Kasem - 10 June 1999

Lording It At Lord's

It was natural that Lord's should have the best wicket on view so far. It had the best weather as well. Clear blue skies, a hard true batting strip, a typical English crowd, nothing frenetic or jingoistic about the assembled multitude, and some great batting in the classical mould. At last, a taste of the perfect life.

Runs flowed at Lord's as Australia batted first, after being put in by Alistair Campbell. The Zimbabwean captain did the right thing, because in the knockout stages chasing runs would be at a premium. Certain of a place in the last four, he could afford to ``practise'' for the crunch matches that lay ahead. Pity Wasim Akram had the scripts confused.

Once Campbell had put the Aussies in, he knew that the die was cast. There are few better sights in contemporary cricket than Mark Waugh in full flight. He is a throwback to the good old days, when batsmen stood tall at the crease, looking the bowler straight in the eye, and stroked the ball with the most consummate of ease. Among the classic modern day batsmen, only another Australian could fit that bill. Mark Waugh is the nearest to Greg Chappell when it comes to precision, touch and finesse. He had Lord's for his stage, and he made everyone sit up and take notice of him, all over again. With the ball coming on to the bat, a hundred was there for the taking. He had lost at the races the previous day, but here he did not, for once, look the gift horse in the mouth.

Typically and remorselessly, the Aussies piled on the runs. Steve Waugh helped himself to a solid watertight sixty, while Ricky Ponting maintained the early tempo with 36. Zimbabwe did not have much by way of bowling resources, but did well to restrict Australia to a tick over 300. In any event, they had resigned themselves to chasing whatever was put up on the board. They launched a blitzkrieg of their own when they went out to bat.

Neil Johnson, who is enjoying this World Cup as no one else can, already made his presence felt with two wickets before he went out to bat. He is an effortless timer of the ball and he made the Australians pay heavily for erring in length to him. Fours were hit with gay abandon, and Zimbabwe were well in sync with the required run rate. The Aussies suddenly found themselves in the unaccustomed role of chasing leather, just when they had thought they had things under control. For a horrifying period, when Johnson and Goodwin were at the crease, and runs were flowing freely and without compunction, Steve Waugh turned to what he thought was his trump card. It only served to aggravate matters for him.

Johnson took an immediate fancy to Shane Warne's not-so-effective-in-this-World-Cup deliveries and plastered him across the length and breadth of Lord's. The first two overs cost 22 runs. Five of Warne's overs added 44 runs to the Zimbabwean kitty. It is perhaps a reflection of the times that Warne is now beginning to need protection. He was promptly replaced by Bevan. Goodwin was lured into indiscretion, and suddenly the runs dried up. What was worse, wickets kept falling as well. It was a perplexed and horrified Johnson who had to watch the demise of his compatriots at close quarters. The academic exercise then left was whether Johnson would get the thoroughly deserved hundred his own form in the competition had warranted all along.

The Aussies are a team hungry for success in this World Cup, and it showed in every move that they made. The batsmen have run into form at the right time. The bowlers are a handful, and the team has enough pedigree to stand up and be counted. This team look like they are going places for sure. Zimbabwe have done enough to prove that they merit their places in this exclusive company. They have had their slices of luck, but they deserve every bit of that as well. They have played fair and they have played hard. They have been a revelation. No praise is too high for them.

This team takes great stock in heroism and valour, qualities which were aptly epitomised in Neil Johnson's innings. There will be a few men leaving England in June, walking taller than when they arrived. Johnson will be very much a part of that exclusive group. A man for all seasons.

Source: The Daily Star, Bangladesh
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