Heading for Heady Stuff

Published: Tuesday, June 15, 1999, 5:30 [IST]
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There is an unmistakable Australian Aura to the World Cup 1999 now. Will that last till June 20, the day when the destination of the last Cup of this century would be known? Honestly, there was no sign during the preliminaries of the championship for resurgence.

Thrashing a weak West Indian batting line-up the Australian found a spot in the super Six leagues. They did not carry any point from the preliminaries and so even the rabid fanatic of Australian Cricket would not have given the team any chance to make the last-four sector. But not for anything Australia are being hailed as a powerful force in world cricket for the last two hundred and twenty two years.

The kangaroo leapt every slot in the Super Six in characteristic style and finally landed with pride in the semi-final field. Australia showed Zimbabwe their place; destroyed India's dreams and finally made the entire cricket world to a stand up and watch their extraordinary performance against one of Cup favorites South Africa. Skipper Steve Waugh, with an unbeaten century, came up with an inspiring show which will go down in the history as one of the greatest captain's deeds. Ironically enough, Australia will meet South Africa in the second semi-finals on June 17 at Edgbaston.

That clash is going to provide a heady stuff. A terribly wounded South Africa would never forgive the Australians for the humiliation suffered on the last day of the Super Six programme (June 13). And Australia, on the other hand, having tatted blood would certainly be asking for more. So it is going to be a war of attrition on June 17. Australia is about the only team, which had won all the three Super Six matches. South Africa and Pakistan, the world's favorites right from the start of the championship, have got their respective formbooks spoiled on their way to the semi-finals.

Pakistan suffered at the hands of India and South Africa and so was even pushed to the brink of disaster in the Super Six. But they got their priorities correctly and got past Zimbabwe against whom the top order of the batting line-up got into the right route.

Saeed Anwar hit a century. South Africa, who lost two valuable points in the preliminaries to Zimbabwe, performed in the Super Six as though those lost points hardly hit them. But came the last day and the Australians exploded, to make the world realize that this South African team could be beaten that too convincingly.

So all the giants have been brought to earth by the end of the Super Six, which augurs well for the climax. New Zealand, which made the Super Six with an out of the world effect in their last preliminaries match where smashed 123 for four in 17.5 overs to make it to the next round on better run rate than the West Indies, are a surprise entry to the semi-finals. That however a victory in their last match against India, and, the Kiwis flew as never before to reach a victory target of 252 in 48.2 overs with five wickets in hand.

That was a fabulous effort for a side, which does not possess any star in its ranks. Mathew Horne, Nathan Astle, Roger Twose hold the responsibility of the batting line-up while fine all-round cricketers like Chris Cairns, Chris Harris strike a balance to a team for whom Craig McMillan (batsman) and Geoff Allott (bowler with a tally of 20 wickets in his bag) are rated as brilliant individual performers. Adam Paroer, the wicket keeper, could be a match-winner with his bat too. They take on Pakistan on June 16 at the Old Trafford.


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