The first Super Eight match between hosts West Indies and Australia has gone into the Reserve Day due to persistent rain at Antigua. It wasn’t before a masterly century from Matthew Hayden though. The Australian bulldozer powered his side to an imposing 322 for 6. The West Indies will now come out fresh tomorrow morning to get those runs in 50 overs. A tough task indeed but certainly not an impossible one.
Conditions were overcast to begin with as the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium located in North Sound geared up for its first ever One Day International. Brian Lara won the toss and decided to put the Aussies to bat first on an unknown virgin track. While there were no changes in the Australian line up that beat South Africa, Windies as expected brought back Corey Collymore in the place of Ian Bradshaw. Lara’s decision to field first proved to be right in the beginning as Daren Powell forced Adam Gilchrist to get an inside edge that was caught behind in the 5th over. Skipper Ponting got things back on the track with a half century partnership with Haydos before he was done in by a direct throw from Sarwan from the 30 yards circle. Ponting made 35 which also had the first six of the game, one that had come off a pull shot.
Hayden, who is in prime form did have a slow start, getting his first run after facing 18 deliveries. But he stuck to his task to have the Australian batting to revolve around him. He was often walking across and in front of his stumps to intimidate the medium pacers. He put on a century partnership with Michael Clarke (41 from 47) which got the launching pad. Bravo was the one providing the breakthrough at a crucial juncture getting Clarke playing him right across to get lbw. Symonds came in and disappointed, foxed by the extra bounce that Marlon Samuels had got in his so called off breaks.
Australia were pegged back by the next wicket that of Michael Hussey and were at 234 for 5. But that just didn’t stop them from smashing 322 on the board thanks to the big left hander who never ever got tired. Haydos’ innings had the big shots at will but he always ran his runs and his partners’ with utmost sincerity and urge although he is a 35-year-old man. Hayden batted till the 48th over till he was caught down in the deep. By then 158 runs were piled up in just 143 balls with 14 fours and four towering sixes out of a total of 297! It was Hayden’s second consecutive ton in the tournament and his score of 158 is now the highest ever scored by an Aussie in World Cup history.
In the end, it was some improvisation from Shane Watson, who remained unbeaten on 33 from 26 with 3 fours and a six that provided the cushion of extra runs. The worrying factor for the home side was that their main strike bowler – Jerome Taylor once again looked unimpressive, this time remaining wicketless and conceding 67 in his 10 overs.
It was drizzling quite often during the Australian innings, in fact play was held up only for a while during the 47th over. But during the lunch break, the drizzle became much heavier and never gave up. There was lot of water that got collected on the covers and with the rain not getting blown away, the umpires decided to take it for tomorrow. West Indies will need a good start and its a possibility that they can win as the ground is a big one for which they have run the twos and the threes well. There has been no terror in the pitch, so Windies will have to keep their mind on matter. The Aussies will be banking on the massive 300 plus total they have put up which incidentally is the sixth time in a row they have achieved which in turn happens to be a record! One more thing that is in the favour of the Kangaroos is that there will be some early morning moisture that they can take advantage of.