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Symonds emerges unlikely hero
- Troubled Aussies weather early blows l Waqar penalised for double-beamer

Johannesburg: Australia responded to the loss of Shane Warne like the world champions they are, crushing Pakistan by 82 runs in their opening World Cup Group A match on Tuesday.

Inspired by a magnificent unbeaten 143 from unlikely hero Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting’s side recovered from a poor start to post a total of 310 for eight before bowling out the Pakistanis for 228 in a one-sided repeat of the 1999 World Cup final.

The win was an emphatic response to anyone who might have wondered if Australia could win without Warne, and if they can maintain this form it would be hard to see any other side taking their title from them.

The margin of victory made it hard to believe that Australia were in deep trouble at 86 for four before the 27-year-old Symonds, a player whose inconsistent career had barely justified his selection, took control in a 125-ball effort featuring 18 fours and two sixes.

“It was nice to get one (a century) under the belt and, hopefully, it won’t be the last,” the Man of the Match said after his first international hundred. “We were in a spot of bother so it was nice to get some runs for the team.

“Harvs (Ian Harvey) and Hoggy (Brad Hogg) chipped in, and we could make a respectable total,” he added.

Ponting, who contributed a vital 53, was proud of his players. “I couldn’t have asked for better out of my first (World Cup) game (as captain),” he told reporters. “We were in early trouble, we just had to bat for a while and get the momentum going our way.

“Then when I got out Andrew played one of the best one-day innings I’ve seen for a long, long time. “I always knew Andrew had it in him to go out and play like that. It’s been a while coming and he would be the first to admit that.”

Symonds and Ponting added 60 for the fifth wicket to get the innings back on track, and when the captain fell, that was the cue for Symonds to go into over-drive. After passing 50 for only the third time in 55 ODIs, a mark reached in 60 balls, he went to his hundred from only 32 more deliveries, driving powerfully through the off-side.

Symonds clubbed leg-spinner Shahid Afridi for four boundaries in one over, and when captain Waqar Younis reintroduced his faster bowlers, his response was to up the tempo even more.

He hammered both Wasim Akram and Waqar for sixes in the closing overs as he passed the previous highest score by an Australian in World Cup cricket, the 130 made by Mark Waugh against Kenya in 1996.

In the face of the onslaught Pakistan lost their cool and Waqar was banned from bowling by umpire David Shepherd after delivering two beamers to Symonds, in the 49th over. It was later declared that the Pakistan captain will not face any further disciplinary action.

Pakistan, with only 49 overs to face after being docked an one for a slow over-rate, were unable to gain any sort of momentum in the face of impressive bowling from recent injury victims Jason Gillespie (one for 28) and Glenn McGrath (one for 39).

There were some late fireworks from Rashid Latif (33) and Akram (33) who added 54 in five overs, but as they came together with Pakistan on 147 for seven in the 35th over it was very much a case of too little too late.

Ian Harvey claimed four for 58, including a wicket with his first ball, and Warne’s understudy, left-arm wrist-spinner Brad Hogg, took three for 54, as if to emphasise once again that there is life after the champion leg-spinner.

“Chasing a target in excess of 300 was always difficult. We bowled well with the new ball but the later overs were difficult,” said Waqar. “It was a good decision (to field) but did not really work,” said the Pakistan skipper. (Reuters)

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