Pune: World champions Australia qualified for the final of the Limited Overs tri- series being played in India by defeating New Zealand with one ball to spare. In a thrilling encounter between the trans-Tasman rivals, Australia overtook New Zealand's 258 for nine with two wickets in hand before a full house of 25,000 at the Nehru stadium on Monday. Australia, needing 21 from the last two overs, sealed their win when the eighth- wicket pair of Andrew Symonds and Andy Bichel smashed 17 runs in the penultimate over bowled by spinner Daniel Vettori. Tailender Bichel hit a four and two off the first two deliveries, was dismissed off the third, before Symonds lofted a boundary and six from the last two balls of the over.
Australia's third win in four matches ensured them a place in the final at Calcutta's Eden Gardens on November 18 even before their last two league matches against India and New Zealand. The Kiwis, who fought splendidly through the day, are yet to win a game after being forced to split points in the rain-hit opener against India and losing to the Australians in the second match. "It was a close game, no doubt, but we showed the character to win in our fourth game in nine days," Australian captain Ricky Ponting said.
"This was the toughest win in the series so far, but we now have time to put our feet up and relax for a few days." Jacob Oram hit a gutsy 81 off 87 balls in the first session as the Kiwis, sent to bat on a grassy wicket, recovered from a disastrous start to post a challenging 258 for nine. Oram smashed 12 boundaries and a six in his highest One-day score after pace bowler Brad Williams grabbed four wickets in his first four overs to reduce the Black Caps to 21 for four.. Williams, playing only his 11th One-dayer, added one more wicket to surpass his previous best of 4-22 five days ago in Faridabad when New Zealand were shot out for 97.
The Kiwis, 130 for six at one stage, added 128 more runs as Oram hit his way out of trouble with help from wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, who finished with an unbeaten 51 off 47 balls. Fleming made a defiant 40, adding 47 for the fifth wicket with Chris Cairns (27) and 62 for the sixth with Oram. McCullum then put on 68 for the eighth wicket with Oram, who was finally bowled by Symonds in the 44th over. Australia were themselves reduced to 65 for four by the 15th over with fast bowler Daryl Tuffey ripping through the top order with three wickets.
Veteran Michael Bevan (50) and youngster Michael Clarke (70) put the world champions on track by adding 108 for the fifth wicket, before the Kiwis hit back by grabbing three quick wickets. Symonds, however kept his cool amidst growing tension to steer Australia home with an unbeaten 37. Australia next play New Zealand again in Guwahati on Sunday. The Kiwis take on hosts India at Cuttack on Thursday in a game they must win to stay in contention for the final.
|Copyright AFP 2001|