|Australia was initially tied down by the Zimbabwe spinners before they managed to break free [Reuters]|
Champions Australia softened up a resolute Zimbabwe with fiery pace and bounce to kickstart their campaign with a resounding 91-run victory on Monday, their 30th World Cup win on the trot.
Australia’s speed merchants Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson (four for 19) regularly hit the 145 kph mark to reduce Zimbabwe to 44 for four within 13 overs. They never recovered and they were all out for 171 chasing 263 to win.
While Lee and Tait resorted to the short stuff, Johnson kept it full and fast to torment the Zimbabwean batsmen.
“It felt good, a good rhythm out there. I think the boys did an exceptional job. Zimbabwe came out firing, played some pretty good shots so it’s good to get a win on the way,” Johnson said.
“My role at the moment is coming in at first change and try to dry up the runs and hopefully get a wicket there as well.
“I’m still bowling that aggressive type of bowling, bowling those short balls and change-ups as well so I enjoyed myself
Earlier, Australia had been initially tied down by the Zimbabwe spinners before they managed to break free and post 262 for six after opting to bat first.
Tangled by a barrage of inspired spin bowling, Australia looked guarded in their approach at the start and needed some powerful hitting at the end in front of a quarter full stadium in Ahmedabad on a surface which had no demons in it.
‘Pretty good start’
“It’ll be our philosophy right the way through the tournament,” said Australian captain Ricky Ponting. “You need to have wickets in hand through the middle overs in these conditions when the spinners come on.
“We probably could have got a few more runs but overall it was a pretty good start.”
Zimbabwe started with paceman Chris Mpofu and the experienced left-arm spinner Ray Price at the other end and both bowlers managed to keep openers Shane Watson (79) and Brad Haddin (29) in check as they managed a meagre 28 runs in the first 10 overs.
Lusty hitting by vice-captain Michael Clarke (58 not out off 55 balls), David Hussey and Steve Smith at the close of the innings ensured Australia went past the 250-run mark.
The Zimbabweans used the Decision Review System judiciously and were successful on both their referrals to get rid of Watson and Haddin leg before to their spinners.
Ponting and Watson managed to up the scoring rate with a 79-run partnership off 75 balls but man-of-the-match Watson’s dismissal and subsequently Ponting’s run out hampered their tempo once again.
The Australian captain was run out at the non-striking end by a brilliant direct throw from the mid-wicket boundary by the lanky Mpofu while attempting a second run.