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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Australia holds nerve to beat New Zealand by 5 runs at Cricket World Cup

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DHARAMSALA, India — Mitchell Starc held his nerve and defended 19 off the last over as Australia beat New Zealand in a record-scoring affair at the Cricket World Cup on Saturday.

James Neesham bludgeoned a quickfire half-century to bring the Kiwis to the cusp of an epic victory but was run out on the penultimate ball of the game as the Black Caps fell narrowly short of chasing down Australia’s 388 of 49.2 overs.

Travis Head, returning after a fractured thumb, made an explosive entry into the tournament with a blazing 109 off 67 balls as he combined with David Warner to pile on 175 runs in just 19.1 overs to set the Aussies up for a big total.

New Zealand finished with 383-9 in 50 overs, with Rachin Ravindra scoring 116 off 89 balls to give the Black Caps a chance at chasing down the tall target. It stays third with eight points and ahead of Australia (8 points) on net run-rate.

The combined total of 771 runs on Saturday was the most ever scored in a World Cup match, bettering the 754 runs made during the South Africa vs. Sri Lanka game at New Delhi earlier in the tournament.

Opting to bat in the final match at Dharamsala, Australia made a flying start to its innings. The Head-Warner partnership amassed 50 runs in only 4.1 overs. At the end of 10 overs, the duo had crossed 118-0 — just one run short of the record for first powerplay in World Cups.

Head reached 50 off only 25 balls, the fastest in this tournament, after Warner scored 50 off 28 balls. For the latter, it was a continuation of his previous two knocks — centuries against Pakistan and the Netherlands.

Warner missed out on his third hundred, though, out caught and bowled by Glenn Phillips for 81 off 65 balls. He hit five fours and six sixes, including one smashed off Lockie Ferguson’s 154 km/h delivery.

Australia went from 175-0 to 200-2 in the space of 26 balls. Head was out bowled in the 24th over, again off Phillips, after completing his hundred. Mitchell Santner had earlier dropped Head on 70 not out off his own bowling.

It was an important marker as New Zealand found the breathing space to fight back. Australia lost its 10 wickets for 213 runs, after the Warner-Head stand came to an end.

Phillips was New Zealand’s most successful bowler — picking up 3-37 in 10 overs. Santner proved to be expensive, taking 2-80. Trent Boult recovered from the initial onslaught to finish with 3-77.

Steve Smith was Phillips’ third wicket when he holed out for 18. Santner bowled Mitchell Marsh for 36, and then sent back Marnus Labuschagne for 18.

Glenn Maxwell, on the back of his record-breaking ton against the Netherlands, smashed 41 off 25 balls with five fours and two sixes, before he was out caught. He put on 51 runs with Josh Inglis after the Australian middle order was choked for runs.

Inglis and Pat Cummins added 62 off 22 balls and provided late impetus to the Australian innings. They had some help — both batsmen were dropped — rounding out a poor day in the field for the Black Caps with five catches dropped overall.

Cummins scored 37 off only 14 balls, hitting four sixes, while Inglis contributed 38 off 28. Their late partnership elevated Australia to its second highest total — and fourth highest overall — in this tournament.

New Zealand replied with its own speedy start — Devon Conway and Will Young added 61 off 44 balls for the first wicket.

Josh Hazlewood provided the breakthrough, removing both openers in successive overs as New Zealand was down to 72-2 in the 10th.

Ravindra took center stage thereafter as he notched up a chanceless hundred. He put up two crucial partnerships — 96 for the third wicket with Daryl Mitchell and another 54 for the fourth with Tom Latham.

He reached 100 off 77 balls and hit nine fours as well as five sixes. Mitchell followed up his hundred against India with 54 off 51 balls. He holed out off Adam Zampa, who took 3-74 in 10 overs.

New Zealand’s innings was derailed before the second powerplay and it was down to 293-6 in 40.2 overs. Glenn Maxwell got rid of Phillips for 12, but it was Ravindra’s dismissal that turned the tide in Australia’s favor.

He holed out off Cummins with 96 still needed off 58 balls. Neesham (58 off 39 balls) turned things around as he smacked three fours and three sixes, adding vital runs with the lower order.

The equation came down to 32 off 12 as Labuschagne spilled a six in the penultimate over. Hazlewood bowled dots for the final two deliveries as the pressure piled on.

With 19 needed, Starc gifted New Zealand five wides with the second ball of the final over to narrow the target to 13 runs off five balls, but Neesham’s run-out three balls later sealed Australia’s fourth win on the bounce.

In Kolkata, the Netherlands handed Bangladesh its fifth straight loss in the tournament when it recorded an emphatic 87-run win. It was the Netherlands’ second big victory against a test-playing nation after it had upset high-flying South Africa by 38 runs at Dharamsala in a rain-reduced game.

The Netherlands bowled out Bangladesh for 142 in 42.2 overs after Dutch skipper Scott Edwards hit 68 off 89 balls and carried the Dutch to 229 when he won the toss and elected to bat first.

It was a pacers’ delight at Eden Gardens’ first World Cup game as Bangladesh fast bowlers — Shoriful Islam, Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman — shared six wickets. Edwards once again led the recovery with a half-century but not before he was dropped twice early in his innings.

Fast bowler Paul van Meekeren then picked up 4-23 with his immaculate seam bowling that included the key wickets of skipper Shakib Al Hasan, Najmul Hossain Shanto and Mushfiqur Rahim as Bangladesh couldn’t recover after it stumbled at 6-70 in the 18th over.

The Netherlands is at No.8 with four points from six matches while Bangladesh, which meets Pakistan next on Tuesday at Kolkata, is at No.9 with only one win against Afghanistan in its opening match.

Image credits: AP

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