Half centuries for Watson & Haddin; NZ press self-destruct button

Aussies have it easy over Black Caps in Nagpur

By Jamie Alter

Nagpur: Feb 25, 2011

New Zealand beat themselves in their first testing match of the World Cup as Australia extended their unbeaten World Cup run to 31 games, with an emphatic win in Nagpur.

In what was a wretched batting display, New Zealand crashed from a steady 66 for two to a hazardous 73 for six, dashing their chances on a harmless track. A composed fifty from Nathan McCullum and a breezy 44 from Daniel Vettori averted a disaster but Australia romped home.

Chasing 297 was never going to be too much of a challenge, especially when Brad Haddin started to cut loose. Shane Watson added a second successive half-century to what s shaping up to be a fantastic tournament, leaving Michael Clarke to put the finishing touch on a win that took Australia s Net Run Rate to +1.813. New Zealand now head to Ahmedabad needing to crush Zimbabwe to keep themselves afloat.

Shaun Tait, whose brief is to hustle the batsmen with pace, triggered the collapse before Mitchell Johnson pierced the soft underbelly further. Jesse Ryder s poor shot selection opened up the floodgates and rest seemed more intent to catch the next flight out of Nagpur.

On a flat pitch, New Zealand came crashing down after their annihilation of Kenya with their lack of footwork the most glaring fault.

Having been put into bat, they just failed to turn up. Brendon McCullum slashed Tait to third man, Watson pegged back Martin Guptill s off stump, before Johnson nailed two in one over. Ryder hung his bat limply outside off stump and three balls later James Franklin slashed at width and suffered a similar fate.

Johnson s twin strikes in a maiden over, the 14th of the innings, left New Zealand wilting. On a good batting pitch, with the bowlers doing nothing extraordinary, they were teetering on the brink.

Ricky Ponting then went for the kill and recalled Tait. Scott Styris, when the situation most demanded solidity, threw his bat outside off stump and gave Haddin his third catch, and then Ross Taylor was cleaned up by a peach of a yorker.

Nathan McCullum, refreshingly, was like a sane voice in a ruckus. Along with and Jamie How who was preferred to Jacob Oram today he added 48 and a further 54 with Vettori. Nathan McCullum showed he had all the shots a crisp drive, a neat glance, and a powerful pull whenever the spinners dropped it even fractionally short. Cool, calm and collected, he raised his fifty off 72 balls while Vettori swept his way to 44 from 43.

The resistance ended at 175 for seven in the 42nd over when Johnson got one to straighten and rap McCullum in front. That brought out the batting Powerplay and that was as good as it got for New Zealand, with Vettori and Tim Southee falling off successive deliveries.

The New Zealand bowlers and fielders were rendered ineffective as the first fifty arrived after 47 balls had been bowled. The second fifty came from 37 balls and the match, as a contest, was as good as over. Shrugging off his scratchy innings against Zimbabwe, Haddin set the stadium alight with a dominant half-century. Teeing off against an uninspired bowling attack, he provided proof of the reason why his captain has called on him to deliver the goods more regularly.

Making room to carve his preferred hits over cover and backward of point, Haddin galloped along while Shane Watson held up one end manfully. Haddin raised his fifty from 39 balls, at which stage Watson was on 22 from 36.

Suddenly Watson switched gears, cutting and pulling Nathan McCullum with oomph and thrice thumping boundaries off one Vettori over, at the end of which he had surpassed Haddin. If Australia are to retain the title, such effortless batting from Watson will be massive.

Hamish Bennett stalled Australia s progress by separating the pair in the space of four deliveries, after which Ricky Ponting was swiftly stumped by Brendon McCullum off Southee. Clarke and Cameron White preferred caution against aggression and patiently ticked off the required runs.

Brief Scores: New Zealand 206 all out in 45.1 overs (Nathan McCullum 52, Daniel Vettori 44; Mitchell Johnson 4 for 33, Shaun Tait 3 for 35) lost to Australia 207 for 3 in 34 overs (Shane Watson 62, Brad Haddin 55; Hamish Bennett 2 for 63) by 7 wickets.

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine.His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now)

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