Australia responded to the loss of Shane Warne like the world champions they are, crushing Pakistan by 82 runs in their opening World Cup Group A match here at the Wanderers yesterday.
Inspired by a magnificent unbeaten 143 from Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting's side recovered from a poor start to post a total of 310 for 8 before bowling out the Pakistanis for 228 in a one-sided repeat of the 1999 World Cup final.
The win was an emphatic response to anyone who might have wondered if Australia could win without Warne, and if they can maintain this form it would be hard to see any other side taking their title from them.
Sadly, Pakistan's captain, Waqar Younis either let his guard slip or he showed that he no longer has the control to play this class of cricket when he unleashed two beamers at Symonds within the space of five balls. Both flew past Symonds' nose at more than 80mph and he was lucky not to be hit. First time, the umpire, David Shepherd, called no ball; the second time he did likewise before marching down the pitch and summarily removed Waqar from the attack in the middle of an over.
Shahid Afridi completed it while Waqar stood at extra cover contemplating his folly. The International Cricket Council later issued a statement saying no further action would be taken and Symonds tried to excuse Waqar, saying that "a lot of adrenalin" was pumping through the players at the time. "He said sorry after the game," Symonds said. "No hard feelings."
Pakistan put Australia in on a pitch that had some early moisture and allowed movement and bounce. Wasim Akram, nearly 37, bowled an excellent few overs, taking the first three Australian wickets in eight overs.
Australia were 86 for 4 when Jimmy Maher nibbled at Waqar, but order was restored by Ricky Ponting and Symonds, in much his best innings for Australia. Ponting was, as usual, neat and crisp, while to start with Symonds cut out his wilder strokes. After Ponting had been caught at slip cutting, Symonds took complete control driving, cutting and playing of his legs with masterful ease. He stayed to the end reaching his 143 off only 125 balls, hitting 18 fours and two sixes besides having a meaningful gossip with Waqar.
Pakistan, docked an over for their slow over rate, were soon losing wickets against a typically probing, persistent Australian attack backed by some splendid catching. The openers went for 38 and when Inzamam-ul-Haq and Salim Elahi had followed them, they were 81 for 4 in the 20th over. There was no recovery, just some exciting blows from the lower middle order.
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