S. Ram Mahesh

With matches against Bangladesh and Ireland in hand, Australia will fancy a semifinal spot.

  • Majestic knock by Lara
  • Gayle fails again

    St. Peter's: For a brief while, Brian Lara held out hope.

    Australia's bowlers had extracted three West Indies batsmen within the first ten overs on Wednesday to seize control. Lara had then added 71 with Ramnaresh Sarwan to keep the match simmering.

    But, the wickets of Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo ran Lara aground. He struck a flagellating six off Hogg's left-arm wrist spin.

    The result, however, was certain even before Hogg slipped one past the great left-hander's bat. He had made 77.

    Australia won its first Super Eight match, continued from Tuesday, by 103 runs here at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground. The spill-over into Wednesday meant some equations adjusted while others stayed the same. The West Indies was still chasing.

    But, it had to contend with the bother batting first entails an early start on a strip kept fresh by the rain and the covers.

    Almost immediately, the significance of Ricky Ponting's innings on Tuesday revealed itself like gold-dust settled at the bottom of a pan.

    Nathan Bracken was tight-fisted, his lefty swing and cut starving the openers. His new-ball partner Shaun Tait speared Shivnarine Chanderpaul's pad. Aleem Dar's decision left room for complaint, but it didn't change the fact that the West Indies was 11 for one in the fourth over.

    Ponting had walked in at ten for one. He had cracked the game open by counter-attacking: he had bought time for Matthew Hayden to play himself in; he had created space for Hayden to put the ball into.

    The West Indies fielders, required by the rules to stay inside the circle in the Power Play overs, had done their best to remain at its very edge.

    Matters were different on Wednesday. Chris Gayle and Sarwan appeared shy, painfully self-aware boys.

    Gayle agonised over his two for 22 balls. He could stand it no more.

    Of his 23rd and Glenn McGrath's second, he endeavoured the kind of flat-batted swat that has brought him relief in the past. It didn't get past the 30-yard circle Shane Watson caught it without drama.

    Marlon Samuels got hit, but recovered to drive McGrath through cover. A slower ball had him: slow-motion cameras stationed behind McGrath picked him changing his grip when the delivery was imminent. Samuels didn't. The mis-hit hung in the air long enough for the batsmen to complete two.

    It's the kind of catch a self-respecting fielder hopes another will claim.

    But, to Andrew Symonds it was the work of a moment. He steadied himself under the ball, which the winds must have had swirling, chose the traditional fingers-pointing-up to the Australian reverse cup, and held it, easy as you like.

    After 10 overs, the West Indies needed 303 from 40 with seven wickets in hand. Lara chose to let the first few balls past. Rarely does the style of a leave give the full measure of a batsman; it does of course allow one to rate his judgement of line, but rarely is it the personal statement his other strokes are.

    Genius

    With Lara, you need see nothing else. Bat descends, but draws away. It isn't the mousy withdrawal of a subordinate, but the stately refusal to meet a delivery unworthy of its considerable powers.

    Lara's back foot slides through, as he is left contemplating the bowler.

    But, little is accomplished in one-day cricket by leaving the ball, however gorgeous it looks. Lara accordingly took on Australia's bowlers.

    He carved the first ball after the first drinks break behind point to get people interested. Soon, he was pulling a 90 mph Shaun Tait delivery through mid-wicket. The ball wasn't sufficiently short to warrant the stroke. Try telling a genius that.

    Sarwan's careworn innings of 29, who hit his first boundary off the 56th ball he faced, ended when he found the lone fielder within the circle on the on-side off a Hogg full-toss. Lara continued to dab at Bracken with the delicacy doctors reserve for swabs of cotton and deep wounds.

    After Lara left, Denesh Ramdin constructed an innings of artful cuts and neat drives.

    Scoreboard

    Australia: A. Gilchrist c Ramdin b Powell 7, M. Hayden c Samuels b Bravo 158, R. Ponting (run out) 35, M. Clarke lbw b Bravo 41, A. Symonds c Ramdin b Samuels 13, M. Hussey b Powell 9, S. Watson (not out) 33, B. Hogg (not out) 5; Extras (b-1, lb-9, w-8, nb-3): 21. Total (for six wkts, 50 overs): 322.

    Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-76, 3-174, 4-208, 5-234, 6-297.

    West Indies bowling: Powell 10-2-53-2, Taylor 10-0-67-0, Collymore 10-0-56-0, Gayle 4-0-29-0, Bravo 7-0-49-2, Samuels 9-0-58-1.

    West Indies: C. Gayle c Watson b McGrath 2, S. Chanderpaul lbw b Tait 5, R. Sarwan c Ponting b Hogg 29, M. Samuels c Symonds b McGrath 4, B. Lara lbw b Hogg 77, D. Bravo c Ponting b McGrath 9, D. Ramdin c Gilchrist b Bracken 52, D. Smith lbw b Hogg 9, J. Taylor lbw b Symonds 10, D. Powell b Tait 5, C. Collymore (not out) 1,

    Extras (b-1, w-15) 16. Total (in 45.3 overs) 219.

    Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-16, 3-20, 4-91, 5-107, 6-156, 7-172, 8-199, 9-217.

    Australia bowling: Bracken 9-1-25-1, Tait 7.3-0-43-2, McGrath 8-0-31-3, Watson 7-0-31-0, Hogg 10-0-56-3, Symonds 4-0-32-1.

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