Cricket: Class of Cullinan

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South Africa cruised to a comfortable six-wicket victory over Australia in East London yesterday to take a 1-0 lead in the seven-match one-day cricket series after captain Hansie Cronje had sent Australia in to bat.

It was a comfortable win for the home side who finished on 227 for four, passing Australia's 223 for nine, in the 47th over with 18 balls still to come. Daryll Cullinan's partnership with Jacques Kallis, Middlesex's new overseas player, was the deciding factor in the match as they set about the Australian attack. Each batsman hammered half-centuries in a match-winning 122-run stand for the fourth wicket.

South Africa got off to a steady start, with 31 runs off 44 balls from the openers Adam Bacher (27) and Herschelle Gibbs (10). But then the South African batting went through a mini-collapse as three wickets fell for only19 runs before Kallis and Cullinan came to the rescue. The man-of- the-match Cullinan, who remained unbeaten on 85, gave the finishing touches to the innings with an undefeated 55-run stand for the fifth wicket with Jonty Rhodes, who scored 24 not out.

Earlier, South Africa bowled tightly - especially Lance Klusener who took two for 29 - and fielded ferociously, running out three Australian batsmen to restrict the visitors, who did well to recover from a middle- order collapse, losing six wickets for 59 runs after seeming well set on 129 for two, mainly thanks to an enterprising 10th-wicket partnership by Michael Bevan and Adam Dale. Bevan smashed 51 runs off just 61 balls with the help of three boundaries and a six.

Stuart Law anchored a 97-run third-wicket partnership, contributing a valuable 50, while Steve Waugh continued his impressive form with a 61-ball fifty. But it was too small a total to defend once Cullinan let loose.