Astle plunders savage century as Americans fall apart

New Zealand 347-4 United States 137 New Zealand win by 210 runs
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The Independent Online

A savage assault took place with bat and ball in south London yesterday, leaving the victims in a state of shock. So traumatic was the attack by the New Zealanders that the United States' cricketers may never recover.

A savage assault took place with bat and ball in south London yesterday, leaving the victims in a state of shock. So traumatic was the attack by the New Zealanders that the United States' cricketers may never recover.

The beating, led by Nathan Astle's unbeaten century and a wicked spell of bowling by Jacob Oram, who finished with five for 36, will certainly make the game all the more tricky to sell to the American sporting public, which is not renowned for enjoying mis-matches.

The team bearing the United States' colours and boasting players with first class experience in the Caribbean were battered and bludgeoned to defeat. They had won a remarkable warm-up victory over Zimbabwe when they had chased 272 runs for victory and did it with four balls to spare. But New Zealand proved an entirely different force.

There was something pitiful in the way the United States batsmen, knowing they had to break New Zealand's record total for this competition in order to win, stumbled naively into international one day cricket's equivalent of a dark alley shortly after their supporters had greeted their half century.

Three wickets fell in one cruel Oram over; Mark Johnson was caught behind, Leon Romero edged to slip and Steve Massiah gave wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum his second victim. In the next over, which was Chris Cairns' first, the United States captain Richard Staple fell lbw, and in the following over Rohan Alexander became Oram's fourth wicket in 17 balls. All that the US could do was to wring a few drops of pride from what was left of their contribution.

And to their credit, their batsmen managed something approximating to that, chiefly through Clayton Lambert, the former West Indies Test batsman who is remembered for the clobbering he dealt the England bowlers in the Caribbean in 1997-98.

At least he got the United States into three figures during his 84-ball knock, which contained a well-received six as the crowd latched on to the underdogs. But Rashid Zia took 33 balls to get off the mark and the rest subsided mercifully quickly.

There was certainly never any danger of the United States batsmen matching the barrage of blows that marked the end of the New Zealand innings to put a more realistic perspective on the difference between these two teams.

If Astle's innings, scored at virtually a run a ball and containing half a dozen sixes, was impressive, then that of Craig McMillan, his fifth wicket partner, was positively breathtaking.

McMillan belayed the ball to all parts, reaching fifty off just 21 balls and in all he clubbed seven massive sixes and a couple of fours in his 27-ball smash and grab raid. The pair's onslaught realised 136 runs in 48 balls - Staple suffering the worst of it with two for 76.

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