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The Electronic Telegraph 5th Super Six Match: Australia v Zimbabwe
Charles Randall - 9 June 1999

Johnson's landmark is achieved in vain

Australia (303-4) bt Zimbabwe (259-6) by 44 runs

This looked a respectably close contest on paper, but in reality Australia won their Super Six match in the sunshine yesterday with a beachcomber's nonchalance.

Mark Waugh's 104 off 120 balls gave backbone to a giant Australian score, his brother Steve smashed 62 off 61 balls and victory was as good as theirs at the half-way lunch break.

Zimbabwe, the group leaders, needed further successes against major opposition to improve their status beyond permanent underdogs, according to Dave Houghton, their coach. They failed, and they were moderate without actually crumbling.

Neil Johnson, their inspiration of the tournament, helped himself to 132 not out, and it was not his fault that his innings had no bearing on the result, only the margin of defeat.

Johnson, man of the match, looked more deflated than elated at becoming the first Zimbabwe player to score a hundred at Lord's. It had been a futile chase, more an exercise in damage limitation in the knowledge that run-rate could decide a semi-final place.

Alistair Campbell's decision to put Australia in on a dry batting pitch forfeited the inititative. It seemed incomprehensible - at the time and in hindsight - because Zimbabwe were well aware their best victories had been earned by defending totals, not chasing them.

The spectre of Glenn McGrath seemed to have intimidated them before a ball was bowled. Campbell justified his decision by saying: ``With a bowler like McGrath, when he's on song, you can lose three wickets early and you can't put up a defendable total. There was some movement there if you got the ball in the right place.''

Steve Waugh, Australia's captain, said he would have batted first. ``It was as flat as anything,'' he said.

Zimbabwe went through their fielding stint in a daze, slips disappeared within a few overs and bowlers generally went through the crease more in hope than expectation.

Mark Waugh early in his innings was almost held brilliantly by Grant Flower, who parried a slash high to his left at point and nearly snaffled the rebound.

Australia passed 50 in 11 overs, with Waugh facing only 19 balls, but runs flowed at both ends, and Steve proved uncontainable once into his stride, before he heaved across the line.

Australia's only real hiccup was the injury to Darren Lehmann, who damaged his finger playing defensively to Henry Olonga, though there was no broken bone.

Zimbabwe needed a bracing reply to prevent a poor run-rate, especially as the winning target was most likely going to be beyond them.

Johnson's innings raised their hopes of achieving the unlikely for more than half their journey, though wickets started to fall at the other end, including Andy Flower first ball and Guy Whittall third ball, both for ducks.

Flower's dismissal was a knife thrust the over after Murray Goodwin had tamely miscued a sweep to deep square-leg off Michael Bevan's wrist spin for 47.

Goodwin and Johnson had piled on 114 for the second wicket at around a run a ball, but Goodwin became increasingly frustrated, nudging nervously.

Goodwin predictably holed out and Flower edged a lifter from Paul Reiffel next over, the delivery bouncing up the slope across him. Campbell played nicely for a while before holing out at long leg, Whittall drove straight to mid-off and Dirk Viljoen, on his World Cup debut, was stumped on a third-umpire decision.

With partners melting away, Johnson decided to keep the score ticking over, ensuring his team reached a minimum of 250. At the 40-over mark, Zimbabwe were 25 runs behind Australia at the equivalent stage, and the match as a contest was dead.

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