Australia have given the knock out punch to England in this World Cup with an easy seven-wicket win at Antigua. Kevin Pietersen’s century had gone in vain as the Kangaroos made little fuss in chasing down a target of 248. Skipper Ricky Ponting led from the front with a well controlled 86 but it was Shaun Tait taking the honours of getting the Man of the Match spell for setting up England on the backfoot early on.
Michael Vaughan won the toss and decided to bat first, it was yet another failure for him and also for Andrew Strauss who finally got a game in the tournament. Both were cleaned up by the raw pace of Shaun Tait and England were off to a worst start at 24 for 2. A not so unfamiliar resurrection act from Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen provided a wonderful platform. England looked good at 164 for 3 in the 30th over when Ian Bell had departed after scoring 77 from 90 with 9 fours after he was promoted to the opening slot. The finishing act went horribly wrong for England as they could add up only another 93 in the remaining overs after Bell’s wicket. Pietersen did manage to score 104 (from 122 balls with 6 fours and a six) but could never afford to break free because of wickets going down at the other end. The middle and lower middle order failed to come to the party and England lost its way towards the end, they could only gather 51 runs in the last 10 overs with the problem being the loss of 5 wickets during that stage. Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait and Glenn McGrath picked up three wickets apiece. McGrath was surprisingly expensive as he went for 62 in 9.5 overs. Hogg did the strangling job conceding just 36 in his 10 overs besides taking the big wicket of Freddie Flintoff (4). Last match hero Ravi Bopara had got 21 to add up 51 for the sixth wicket with Pietersen.
The Aussies made a charge towards the victory with a positive opening stand of 57 before Gilchrist (27) was dismissed by Flintoff in the 11th over. England fought their way back when they had got Hayden out for 41 to get the Aussies to 89 for 2 in the 20th over. But the third wicket pair of Ponting and Clarke sealed the match with a 112-run partnership. Ponting fell with 201 runs on the board after he was brilliantly run out by a direct hit from Collingwood. The Australian Skipper’s 86 came in 106 balls with 11 fours. Michael Clarke (55 not out from 63 with 2 fours) and Andrew Symonds (28 from 28 with 4 fours and a six) got the victory with 16 balls to spare. Barring a miracle, England are out of the tournament.