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Game Two VB Series - Australia v England

Cricket News 15/12/02

Report by Jon Cocks

If ever the result of a One-Day International cricket match was overshadowed in significance by one event on the field, then this match contained that event. The dislocation of Shane Warne’s shoulder while diving to field from his own bowling and speculation over his minimum recovery time of 4-6 weeks dominated all post-match analysis in Australia’s easy 89-run victory over England at the MCG in this second of the VB Series matches.

The make-up of Australia’s final 15 for cricket’s World Cup in South Africa next February has been given an unwanted twist in the tail, given that the bowling mix is almost certain to cost Australia in reserve batting and/or pace bowling power. Characteristically, Ian Chappell noted in Channel Nine’s coverage that Stuart MacGill’s stocks have risen.

If MacGill travels to South Africa as insurance for Warne, it will be at the expense of a batsman or batting all rounder. Ten players are certain to tour, barring further accident of injury: Ponting (c), Gilchrist, Hayden, Martyn, Lehmann, Bevan, Lee, Bichel, Gillespie and McGrath. Add the two leggies – assuming Warne is considered a fair chance to play at the business end of the tournament – and that makes an even dozen.

Four pacemen and two leggies leave room only for extra batsmen and all rounders. This rules out Bracken and Noffke, leaving two of the last three spots to Watson and Maher, on current form and selectorial inclination. The fifteenth spot will probably go to a player with two strings to his bow, like batting all rounder Greg Blewett or maybe Brad Hogg.

The rubble of the demolished Ponsford Stand, however, was a kind of visual metaphor for both England’s tour – with its twelve consecutive games without a win – and Shane Warne’s World Cup aspirations. Both the match ball and with English hopes were muddied after they were propelled into the quagmire that will eventually rise in a couple of years and transform – phoenix-like – into a spectator facility new and wonderful.

England can only dream of a similar regeneration, after the clinical thrashing meted out by the rampant World Champions, led by Ricky Ponting, who won the toss and – grinning broadly - elected to bat on a hard, fast, true wicket of even bounce. Debutante Jimmy Anderson (1-46 from six overs) got a lesson in playing the world’s best, as did Kirtley (1-62 from nine) Blackwell (2-54 from ten) and Batty (1-65 from ten).

After Hayden’s early dismissal, the principal academic interest for just over 200 deliveries of barnstorming, electrifying Australian strokeplay was to see which of Ponting and Gilchrist could raise the century first. Gilchrist (124 from 104 balls, with 12 fours and four sixes) narrowly won that battle from Ponting (119 from 123 balls, nine fours and three sixes). The partnership of 225 set a new Australian ODI record.

England never even remotely threatened the eventual Australian total of 6-318, nor even the bonus point figure of 254. Had England passed the latter figure, they would have earnt a point and denied Australia the extra one for dismissing England for less than 80% of its total.

But not even the unbowed Nick Knight (70 from 68 balls) could steer England within the bounds of respectability despite help from Craig White (57* from 74) and Blackwell (43 from 54). With five wickets down before triple figures adorned the makeshift ground-level scoreboard, England was up that well-known creek of waste matter in that canoe of barbed wire, minus the proverbial paddle.

Three brilliant run-outs had fans leaping out of their seats before Shane Warne’s accident cast its black cloud over all else. Shane Watson’s sharp gather on the leg side and rapid return caught Irani short, Bevan’s dive at mid on and underarm flick accounted for Stewart, but the gem of the tri-fecta came from Man-of-the-Match Adam Gilchrist, whose gather from fine leg’s return and direct hit at the bowler’s end sent Blackwell back.

Brett Lee (2-31 from 9) was the pick of the Australian pacemen, keeping it fairly full and straight, as his pace and aggression kept England’s batsmen cowed and on the back foot. Before his injury, Warne (2-34 from 7.5) was performing immaculately and - at the death - Darren Lehmann (1-21 from 6) enhanced further his growing reputation as a surprisingly difficult customer to score from.

Australia’s score is on the board in the VB Series table after two resounding wins from two matches, but the cost may yet be seen to be far higher than anyone in Australian cricket might be prepared to pay.

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