Magic Johnson propels Australia to winning start
A scintillating unbeaten 73 by Mitchell Johnson from only 47 balls propelled Australia to a comfortable 50 run victory over the West Indies Cricket Board XI at the Wanderers yesterday. Johnson clearly enjoys batting on South African wickets having made scores of 123 not out and 96 during Australia’s surprise Test series victory against the Proteas earlier in the year.
His innings yesterday, together with support first from Brett Lee and then from Nathan Hauritz enabled Australia to add 103 runs in the last ten overs and set the WICB XI a daunting 276 to win on the same bowler friendly surface England had triumphed so surprisingly on less than 24 hours earlier.
The WICB XI did not shame themselves in reply (although the Board they represent continue to be an utter disgrace), but with Dale Richards unfit to bat they eventually succumbed for 225 with 19 balls of their 50 overs left.
The winning margin should not overlook the fact despite being fresh from the 6-1 series disintegration of England, Australia, without back injury victim Michael Clarke and Nathan Bracken (who is out of the tournament), were a little ring rusty. Indeed, before Johnson’s late plunder and despite an assured 79 from Ricky Ponting one could even envisage a second shock result in less than 24 hours. It could also be argued that the WICB XI were able to score too many runs when they batted and a step up in intensity will be required for the tougher challenges ahead against India and then Pakistan.
After being put in by Floyd Reifer, Australia lost Shane Watson to the first ball of the match to an unplayable inswinging yorker, before Tim Paine and Ponting put together a second wicket stand of 85. Once the former had gone, wickets fell regularly until the late charge orchestrated by Johnson, with none of Mike Hussey, Callum Ferguson, Cameron White or James Hope able to make any sort of significant contribution. Johnson though was particularly savage, clubbing eight fours and three sixes in his innings and adding 32 together with Hauritz in the last two overs.
The highlight of the WICB XI’s reply was a second wicket stand of 86 between Andre Fletcher – who looked to be a clean and effective hitter – and Travis Dowlin. Both made fifties and when they reached 165/3 in the 35th over the WICB XI still had an outside shot of a stunning victory before a regular fall of wickets meant that the run rate climbed too high. For Australia, Hauritz with 2/23 from 7.5 overs was the pick of the bowlers alongside Peter Siddle the replacement for Bracken.
So another embarrassment avoided for the WICB XI who are now out of the tournament. For Australia there is definitely room for improvement before they aim to seal a semi-final berth and knock India out of the tournament tomorrow.
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