Australia have stormed into the finals of the Champions Trophy for the first time in the tournament history as they beat New Zealand by 34 runs in the first Semi-Final at Mohali. A batting collapse from the Black Caps in chasing a competitive total of 240 shut their chances as they were down and out at 35 for 6. But an amazing hundred-run stand between Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori saw a ray of hope for the Kiwis but the match was almost lost before the partnership even got going. The margin of defeat meant that New Zealand went down fighting.
It was Stephen Fleming who rightly called ‘Heads’ this afternoon to put the Aussies to bat first on a wicket that had a bit of grass to keep the fast bowlers interested. A great start from Kyle Mills saw the wickets of the two openers gone that of Watson and the dangerous Gilchrist. But the Aussies fought back in an incredible fashion putting on three consecutive half century partnerships to give the innings some shape under seaming conditions. Ricky Ponting batted with utmost responsibility to score his 55th ODI fifty. Andrew Symonds who had come in at no.6 also scored a half century which came at run-a-ball. Both Ponting and Symonds scored 58 runs each. Michael Hussey with 35 and Damien Martyn with 26 were the two other significant contributors.
Kyle Mills was the star for the bowling side picking up four wickets conceding just 38 runs in his 10 overs. The Kiwis had bowled extremely well giving away just 52 runs in the last 10 overs. It was a see-saw battle between bat and the ball as both sides took turns to get back in the match. In the end, New Zealand had restricted Australia to 240 for 9. It wasn’t a match winning total for the Australians and they had to strike with the new ball. The Kiwis who were without Scott Styris had included Hamish Marshall and the batting with the exception of Stephen Fleming was woefully out of form.
As usual, Glenn McGrath struck early removing Lou Vincent in the 6th over and then Brett Lee complemented it with a delivery that nipped back a mile to disturb the furniture of Nathan Astle. The wickets were going down in a great hurry which also included that of Stephen Fleming who was induced in playing a flashy drive off an away swinger from Nathan Bracken. Fleming could score just 15. With a score of 35 for 6, the New Zealanders were looking good to crash for a heavy defeat, the danger of getting bundled out under 100 looked certain. But a solid partnership between Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori saw the inevitable Australian defeat delayed by a long time. It was Michael Hussey’s fault for all this to happen as he had dropped a sitter in the slips with Vettori on just 5 when he had edged Bracken.
As long as the 7th wicket partnership between Oram and Vettori was on, the Aussies were feeling uncomfortable and the dew which had set in had made batting look relatively easy. The ball didn’t move at all once it got wet and the shots were coming out at regular intervals from the two all rounders. Gilchrist had rescued Australia in the 36th over when he had taken off the bails in a fraction of a second after seeing Oram drag his backfoot out of the crease after missing to connect an off break from Symonds. Oram made 43 before getting stumped out. Daniel Vettori carried on with his innings for a little while but he got tired in his arms as he is not used to batting out for such a long duration. He eventually played onto his stumps trying to smash Mitchell Johnson through the offside. Vettori’s end came with a personal score of 79 which had come in 103 balls with 7 fours. With Kyle Mills striking some late blows, New Zealand finished at 206 all out in 46 overs with Brett Lee dismissing Mills with a bouncer.
Glenn McGrath who had bowled his 10 overs on the trot was declared as the Man of the Match for taking three wickets which he did conceding 22 runs. Nathan Bracken who got the ball to swing in this match took a couple of wickets. All the six bowlers used by Ponting were amongst the wickets. Australia now take on the winner of the second semi-final match between South Africa and West Indies which is to be played tomorrow at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. The Final is on the 5th at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.