| Brett Lee is ecstatic after dismissing Jacob Oram for a duck at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth Tuesday. Lee took five for 42. (AFP)
Port Elizabeth: Australia came back from the dead on Tuesday to beat trans-Tasman neighbours New Zealand by 96 runs and maintain their unbeaten World Cup record.
After New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond had produced his country’s best one-day International figures of six for 23 to reduce the world champions to 84 for seven, Michael Bevan (56) and Andy Bichel (64) led a stirring fightback.
The pair added 97 for the eighth wicket, an Australia World Cup record, to help their side to a final total of 208 for nine. Glenn McGrath (three for 29) then knocked the top off the New Zealand innings and Brett Lee returned for a second spell to remove top-scorer Stephen Fleming (48) and a shell-shocked lower order as New Zealand were dismissed for 112.
Lee’s second spell was five for 11 in 4.1 overs, including five wickets for three runs in 15 balls as New Zealand lost their last five wickets for 10 runs.
The win was Australia’s eighth in succession in the World Cup and their 14th in-a-row in ODIs, extending their world record run. It also confirmed they will play their semi-final at the same venue next Tuesday.
The defeat for New Zealand means they will have to beat India in their last Super Six match on Friday to secure a semi-final place of their own. That requirement looked highly unlikely, at least for much of the first half of the day, as Bond created havoc in the Australia top order.
The former Christchurch policeman eclipsed the previous best figures by a New Zealand player in ODI, the six for 25 taken by Scott Styris against the West Indies in Port-of-Spain in 2002.
Bond started Australia’s slide with an opening spell of three for 20 before he returned midway through the innings with a second burst of three wickets for four runs in four overs.
Bond bowled a full length and used helpful conditions expertly after Fleming had won the toss but Bichel and Bevan took advantage of the end of his spell to launch the recovery.
The pair, who had steered Australia to victory over England at the same venue nine days earlier, passed Australia’s previous best eighth-wicket stands both in World Cups and against New Zealand.
Bichel’s score equalled the highest ever made by a No. 9 in ODI and was his first international 50. It took 83 balls included four fours and a six from a delivery from Andre Adams that bounced twice. Bevan, conversely, was his usual calm, unruffled self as he moved to his second 50 of the tournament.
Interestingly, in the greater scheme of things, McGrath’s three not out off two balls may not stand out. It was not a “I was there” sort of innings but for the Australia quick bowler, it ended a seven-year, 24-match wait to break his tournament batting duck.
Australia appeared to have a total to bowl at, something was shown all too clearly when they took the field. McGrath struck first, removing make-shift opener Daniel Vettori (10), Nathan Astle (0) and Styris (3) in his opening burst.
Fleming, though, was especially severe on Lee early on with the fast bowler’s first spell of five overs costing 31 runs, but when the fast bowler returned he quickly got his revenge as the New Zealand captain was caught down the leg-side gloving a pull shot.
With Lee finding his range, the tail were quickly blown away, as the innings ended in just 30.1 overs. Ponting said Australia needed more runs in the top order. “We are going to have to identify the best way to play in the first 15 overs,” he said.