Cricket: Twose and sixes stun Australia

Cricket World Cup: Cardiff Australia 213-8 New Zealand 214-5 New Zealand win by 5 wkts: Question mark against Steve Waugh's captaincy as Devon-born batsman inspires New Zealand
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The Independent Online
IF THE recent Welsh referendum is anything to go by, this match between Australia and New Zealand took place in new South Wales. Unhappily for Australia, that is where the association ended after a fifth-wicket stand of 148 in 28 overs between Roger Twose and Chris Cairns sealed a match New Zealand looked to be losing when they were listing at 49 for 4. For the Australian captain, Steve Waugh, it is a defeat that will begin to raise questions over his leadership qualities, and with games against Pakistan and West Indies to come, the pressure is mounting.

Twose who scored an unbeaten 80 from 99 balls, struck the winning runs in style when he pulled the second ball of the 45th over from Damien Fleming for four. Born in Devon but Warwickshire-created, Twose, now 31, emigrated to New Zealand primarily to be with his girlfriend but also to play Test cricket. Qualifying through residency, Twose became quickly disillusioned with playing for his adopted country and quit in 1996, making himself unavailable until recently, when injuries to several key batsmen, facilitated a return.

A member of the powerful Warwickshire sides of the mid-Nineties, Twose, rarely more than a journeyman, has never lacked confidence. When Brian Lara arrived at Edgbaston in 1994, Twose pinned a note on the Trinidadian's locker that said: "Welcome to the second-best left-hander in the world."

If that was a joke, there was no mirth over his opinion of yesterday's opponents. "We see them as bullies, in the way they try to suppress us," he said. " This is my best innings at this level."

When New Zealand had lost their fourth wicket with only 49 on the board their race looked run. But a partnership between Cairns and Twose, that began humbly before blossoming into the match-clinching effort, essentially set up the five-wicket victory with 28 balls to spare.

Over the years Cairns has often proved capable of something brilliant. But if inconsistency could be his middle name, his power and verve, including two mighty sixes off Shane Warne, made his intentions clear - this was clearly a game to be won with fours, sixes and Twose.

With fortune favouring Twose after the left-hander was caught at long- leg off a no-ball from Glenn McGrath, Cairns bowed to no one. Striking the ball with rare ferocity he demoralised Australia to the point where even bowlers like McGrath and Warne were made to look ordinary. Indeed in a tournament that has so far favoured the bowlers this was the first won by the bat.

Trans-Tasman contests have produced some ding-dong encounters over the years and before yesterday's game, Australia had won 51 times to New Zealand's 20. Of the seven games played on neutral grounds, the Aussies had dominated entirely - until yesterday, when a distinctly Kiwi-style Cardiff pitch ruined their record.

Having won the toss, Waugh surprised many when he chose to bat first. Perhaps he felt New Zealand's less-than-imposing arsenal of medium-pacers did not pose a significant threat. However, with thunderstorms around, the air was heavy with humidity and the white ball, at least in the capable hands of Geoff Allott, swung about dangerously.

Bending the ball into the right-handers at a lively pace, the left-arm Allott removed Mark Waugh with the first ball of his second over, umpire Javed Akhtar having no option but to give the batsman out lbw. Gilchrist followed not long after, his hurried steer to second slip evidence of the two-paced nature of this pitch.

If Waugh was having second thoughts about his decision, the partnership between Ricky Ponting and Darren Lehmann should have calmed them. Playing themselves in against the metronomic accuracy of Gavin Larsen - a wise measure considering the innocuous-looking Larsen's career economy rate of 3.7 is one of the best ever - the pair shoe-horned their side into the driving seat.

Lehmann in particular, played with great fluency, his bat swinging true and free like a pendulum through the line of the ball. Ponting, busier and more inclined to direct his shots with an angled bat was also scoring freely until Chris Harris held on to a sliced drive at backward point.

Harris, another bowler normally found in economy class though not yesterday when he conceded 50 runs, then accounted for both Steve Waugh and Lehmann, both falling to smart catches by Nathan Astle inside the fielding circle.

Had Australia been chasing rather than setting, this would have been the time to cue Michael Bevan. Instead, the innings rather petered out as Bevan, with a scratchy 21, and Warne had their timbers rattled by the returning Allott and Australia's lengthy tail may yet cost them dear.