Australia cruise to opening World Cup win

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The Independent Online

Defending champions Australia continued their 29-match unbeaten streak in the World Cup with a 91-run win over Zimbabwe in their opening Group A clash at Ahmedabad today.

Batting first, Ricky Ponting's side endured testing spin conditions for large parts of their innings but Shane Watson's 79 and some late hitting by Michael Clarke (58 not out) racked up a respectable 262 for the four-time cup winners.

In response, Zimbabwe crumbled in the face of Australia's pace attack as Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait picked up three and two wickets respectively with spinner Jason Krejza chipping in with two of his own to help skittle their opponents out for 171.

Zimbabwe's introduction of spin early on almost paid dividends when Brad Haddin's mistimed pull off Prosper Utseya saw the ball hit the base of the stumps without dislodging the bails.

The pressure at last told, with Haddin - trapped lbw - the first World Cup batsman to be given out from a reviewed decision.

Watson reached his half-century from 69 balls en route to the fifty partnership between himself and Ponting (28), but Zimbabwe dismissed both batsmen in successive overs.

Australia notched up 90 runs in the last 10 overs, with Cameron White (22), David Hussey (14) and Steven Smith (11) providing valuable support to Clarke at the death.

The Aussies struck early in the run chase, Charles Coventry (14) caught and bowled off a trademark Brett Lee bouncer, and despite some promising strokes from Tatenda Taibu, Mitchell Johnson had him caught in the slip cordon for seven.

Things went from bad to worse when Brendan Taylor (16) was bowled by Shaun Tait while Johnson picked up his second of the innings, trapping Craig Ervine leg-before for nought.

Sean Williams (28) and captain Elton Chigumbura (14) worked a minor rescue act with a 44-run stand. But the latter's sweep off Krejza only lobbed a simple catch for keeper Haddin, while Williams fell soon after to Tait.

Cremer (37) and Utseya (24) put on a last-ditch 49 for the eighth wicket but it was too little too late as the last two batsmen fell for just 18 runs.