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    March 25, 2007

    Relief as Aussies finally defend a total

    It was the final Group A match and a valuable "carry over" point was up for grabs today at St Kitts. Australia took on the newly crowned Number 1 ranked team - South Africa - with a few demons to exorcise.

    Firstly, the last time these two sides met in an ODI, was that memorable game at the Waunderers where SA clinched their home series (3-2), by chasing down 434 and sewing seeds of doubt in the Australian bowling psyche, that would germinate fully 12 months later in NZ.

    Secondly, Australia was now on a string of 6 consecutive losses to mainstream cricketing sides - the streak only broken by easy wins over Scotland and Holland.

    Some of the Aussies must've been a little uneasy, batting first on such an impossibly small to defend ground backed by a pitch and infield resembling the Nullarbor Plain.

    Even as Matty Hayden dispatched delivery after deliver into the crowd - as he set about doing a "Mick Lewis" to Shaun Pollock, you still had to wonder. It felt like Australia could make 500 - nothing mattered until we successfully defended it, this tiem against the best one day side in the world.

    At 1 for 200 the demons were out - they were dancing and us supporters were all very worried indeed. The Saffers were cocky.

    Watson changed momentum with a very good (and it has to be said, very lucky) return to run out De Villiers from the boundary. Then when Smith cramped up and was forced off the field - the Saffers had "given the suckers" a break and they snaffled it up! Bracken proved impossible to get away and with Gilly up to the stumps, it kept SA's top order from taking too many risks - risks they had to take. Then it was "Hoggy" - kept on ice through most of the Aussie summer, who once again exposed South Africa's adversity to decent spin by taking a couple of crucial wickets and pushing the target beyond the likley. McGrath too chipped in with a well directed bouncer to pick up Prince.

    South Africa's hope faded and was delightful to hear Darryl Cullinen's back handed compliments become increasingly less "veiled" as South Africa's hopes slipped. Geez that guy hates Aussies - he has clearly not fully recovered ;-)

    Anyway, let's not get any more excited about a Group round victory than this - suffice to say, it was relieving to finally defend a large total - being on a small ground with a great batting wicket makes it all the better.

    England also accounted for Kenya today making sure they're through to the Super 8s. so 6 of the mainstream countries through to that stage.

    (Cross posted on STUmpcam.)

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    Thus spake Stuart Helwig @ 5:40 AM |
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