Cricket: Australia keep battle wide open

Australia 303-4 Zimbabwe 259-6 Australia win by 44 runs
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The Independent Online
SO THE Waughs settled the battle, but the war is still wide open. Victory has put Australia back on course to qualify for the semi-finals, but they still have to negotiate an awkward looking tie against South Africa, a match which rounds up the Super Six stage at Headingley on Sunday; but Zimbabwe are also still in with a very good chance of making the last four.

They put up one hell of a fight with the bat, led by the Man of the Match, Neil Johnson, who hit a glorious, unbeaten century - the first player to do so for Zimbabwe at Lord's - to add to his two wickets, and he also did his bit for their run-rate.

Whether it was gripping enough in the early stages to persuade Thomas Harris fans to drag themselves away from the latest escapades of Hannibal Lecter is debatable. But once Johnson was in full flow and the underdogs were baying, there was a distinct impression around the ground that hot copies of Hannibal were being stuffed discreetly into bags as all eyes swivelled centre stage to focus on the left-hander.

Johnson certainly feasted off the Australian bowlers, most notably Shane Warne. He smacked four boundaries in humiliating fashion off the leg-spinner's second over and another came off the third. Warne switched from Nursery to Pavilion End, but still they went after him and he lasted just two more overs in this spell before retiring from the attack, having conceded 30 runs off 19 balls to Johnson and 44 runs in all.

By this time Johnson had been joined by Murray Goodwin and, while the pair of them were knocking off 114 for the second wicket in a nightmare 18 overs for the Australians, the improbable looked a distinct possibility. Reputations counted for nought as the big names were carted around Lord's at will. Sadly after Goodwin departed just short of his half century, the remainder of the Australian attack rediscovered their wicket-taking touch.

Paul Reiffel picked up three in 23 balls and Warne, having returned, drew Dirk Viljoen out of his ground enough for a sharp stumping, after confirmation from the third umpire. It left Zimbabwe, and Johnson, with far too much to do. When he reached three figures - the seventh of this World Cup - an improbable 11 runs an over were needed and that rate increased steadily as the Australian attack grew in confidence and meanness.

But Johnson's heroics meant that this was the first match in this tournament in which a player from each side has scored a hundred. Indeed he and Mark Waugh are the only non-Indians on the list.

Waugh's innings was as historic as it was match-winning. On the way to his 12th century in all one-day international cricket, and his fourth in World Cups, he became the highest scoring Australian batsman in limited- overs cricket, overtaking Allan Border's total of 6,524 runs made in 273 matches. Waugh's effort is all the more impressive since he managed the feat in his 188th match.

But the dry statistics of Waugh's hundred do not remotely reveal the ease with which he compiled it. There was never a hint of panic, not even during the first dozen overs when he faced just 20 deliveries and had still to get into double figures. In all there were 13 boundaries, the majority of which were languidly struck, and generally placed with precision, purposefully splitting the field whenever possible.

In harness with his twin brother Steve the runs flowed - the Waugh Bros side-show saw 129 added in 22 overs. The Australian captain Steve was the more belligerent, belting two sixes to go with the five fours in his entertaining 62, an innings that was brought to a sudden halt when he was bowled by Guy Whittall. The flurry at the end was enough to ensure only the third total in excess of 300 in the tournament - India having scored the other two - and a few runs too far for Zimbabwe.

Robert Winder, page 25