Australia vs England (Champions Trophy Semi-Final)

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Imperious Ponting and brutal Watson hammer sorry England

watson and ponting centuriesAustralia crushed England by nine wickets in the first semi-final of the Champions Trophy yesterday after a record partnership of 252 from Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting helped Australia coast to their 258 target with over eight overs and nine wickets to spare. Despite winning the toss, England were unable to score the 300 minimum that was required on what was a batting paradise at Centurion. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for a seventh wicket partnership of 107 by Tim Bresnan, who top scored with 80, and Luke Wright, which helped their side recover from 101/6 England’s humiliation could have been even worse.

England’s batsmen should sit down and watch Watson and Ponting’s partnership again and again. Not only was it a record stand for any Australian wicket in one day cricket, it was also a lesson in how first to build a platform before accelerating the scoring rate. Here the pair were always up with the required rate and it wasn’t until the result was certain that Watson in particular opened up – 23 including three legs die sixes by Watson came from the penultimate over of the innings bowled by Paul Collingwood. Whilst England’s aggressive approach is to be applauded they must learn that this also needs to be tempered with periods of consolidation when the situation demands.

For Watson it was a timely return to form after a poor start to the competition and his 136 not out is the biggest of his three ODI centuries. It came from 132 balls with ten fours and seven sixes. Ponting scored his 28th one day hundred and also scored his 12,000th run in the format, placing him third in the all-time list behind Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya. Debate will rage as to who is the best batsman of this generation from Ponting, Tendulkar and Brian Lara. For my money it is Ponting and indeed he should be ranked sixth in the all time batting pantheon behind Bradman, Hammond, Sobers, Hobbs and Viv Richards.

Strauss’ hoodoo over Ponting at the toss (seven out of eight now) continued (at least England are good at winning something!) and the England captain had no hesitation in batting on what looked like a belting Centurion wicket. England came out of the traps fast with aggressive gusto, as evidenced when Strauss hit a top edged six off Siddle. Unfortunately, in the same over Australia got the wicket they wanted most when Strauss was brilliantly caught by James Hopes at square leg. Then Owais Shah, his brilliant innings against South Africa already looking a distant memory, was caught by Tim Paine off an attempted leg glance for a duck in Brett Lee’s next over. That made it two down in the first three overs.

Paul Collingwood came in to join Joe Denly and the pair continued to play positively. Collingwood has looked reborn in this tournament and has clearly decided to add some aggression to his usual nudge and nurdle style. It certainly seems to have paid off as he is third behind Graham Smith and now Ponting in first place at the top of the tournament’s runscorers list with an average just over 50. Here after playing himself in, Collingwood hit 22 in boundaries off James Hopes and Mitchell Johnson in a seven ball spell as he raced to 34 in a third wicket partnership of 55. Unfortunately, he played one shot too many when getting a thin glove off an attempted hook off Johnson to Paine who took an excellent one handed catch behind the stumps.

Denly was now joined by Eoin Morgan, who couldn’t get going throughout his innings in stark contrast to his destructive innings against South Africa. Fortunately, Denly kept the scoreboard ticking over until he was again dismissed in the thirties, this time he chased one from Siddle and got a thick edge to Paine after hitting 36 from 44 balls. The Kent opener has made a promising start to international cricket but must learn quickly to turn good starts into big match winning scores.

Two more wickets followed quickly after Denly’s demise. First Stephen Davies, making his one day debut as a late replacement for the sick Matt Prior and looking understandably ring rusty, was bowled by Watson off an inside edge. Then Morgan’s torment came to an end when after being given a life by a dropped dolly from Hopes, he got a thin edge off a Watson delivery that was too close to cut giving Paine a simple catch behind the stumps. Suddenly it was 101/6 and England looked shot.

This brought in Bresnan, only in the side because Stuart Broad failed a late test on his injured buttock muscle, to join Luke Wright. Whilst Bresnan perhaps lacks the quality to be an international bowler, he showed that he was a more than adequate replacement for Broad with the bat. From the depths of despair, the pair built a century partnership that put the specialist batsman to shame and demonstrated what a good pitch it was. Bresnan reached his fifty from only 53 balls and Wright hit two sixes off one Nathan Hauritz over as the pair brought up the 100 partnership in only 115 balls. Just as England were getting close to parity, Wright (48) missed out on a deserved fifty when he chased a wide one from Peter Siddle and only succeeded in getting an edge to Paine – his fifth catch of the innings.

Graham Swann joined Bresnan and the pair continued to score quickly, adding 37 in only 25 balls before Swann went for a suicidal second and was run out. This was a great shame as it looked liked England could reach 275-280 if the pair had batted through to the end. Unfortunately, the innings ended soon after when first Bresnan, for a brilliant 80, and then Graham Onions to a farcical run out saw England’s innings end with over two of their 50 overs still to go. It had been a good recovery but the consensus was that England were still at least 50 runs short of a par score and needed several early wickets.

The Australian reply was delayed when a swarm of giant flying ants descended upon Centurion. Other than the early wicket of Paine, caught by Davies off Onion when the score was only six, this was the biggest problem that Australia faced as they sauntered towards their target. None of the England bowlers, except Collingwood until his final over, were able to stem the flow of runs and the result was never in doubt.

So Australia move onto the final to defend their trophy against the winners of today’s second semi-final at the Wanderers between Pakistan and New Zealand. For England it is back to the drawing board, although at least they have shown some promise during this tournament – aside from when they came up against their limited overs nemesis again that is.

Match 13: 1st Semi-Final – Centurion Australia 258/1 (41.5 overs) Watson 136 not out, Ponting 111 not out beat England 257 all out (47.4 overs) Bresnan 80, Wright 48, Siddle 3/55 by nine wickets

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