The Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai saw the batsmen struggle yet again in this tournament as the pitch turned out to be an anti-One Day International wicket. The Kiwis had defeated South Africa who struggled to chase what would have been a moderate target on any other wicket elsewhere. New Zealand won by a huge margin of 87 after posting an appropriate total of 195 after being put into bat first by Graeme Smith, a decision which backfired totally. There was plenty of deviation of the wicket for the seamers and the spinners were not behind as they got vicious turn and bounce. The wicket totally deteriorated as the game went along with the batsmen playing their shots early as the ball gripped the surface.
Both the New Zealand and the South African batsmen failed to make any impression on this sluggish wicket with the exception of Skipper Stephen Fleming. The left hander who had opened the innings was the ninth wicket to go down for the Kiwis after making 89 precious runs. New Zealand had gone into this match without the services of its two match winners Scott Styris and Shane Bond. After a few hit outs from Lou Vincent, New Zealand got their first casualty with Vincent bowled through the gate by a big inswinger from Shaun Pollock. Nathan Astle and Stephen Fleming then consolidated to put up a solid partnership but Astle paid the penalty for charging down the track to Hall and getting himself yorked to leave NZ at 74 for 2.
The wicket of Astle was a big one lost by the Kiwis and the next batsmen were relatively inexperienced in playing under these conditions and South Africa were picking wickets at regular intervals. A mini collapse was on the cards for the Black Caps with Stephen Fleming watching four wickets going down at the addition of just 25 runs. Stephen Fleming found a partner who could stick for a while in the form of Brendon McCullum and New Zealand looked good at putting up a decent total. Robin Peterson the left arm spinner was successful though in cutting short the 6th wicket partnership to 36 as McCullum was beaten in the flight to give a return catch to the right of the left armer. McCullum contributed 21 from 34 balls which happened to be the second highest score of the innings. New Zealand were bowled out for 195 with 26 more deliveries left in the innings. Birthday boy, Jacques Kallis who turned 31 today picked up three wickets out of which two had come from bouncers that got Fulton and Franklin out. Kallis’s third one was Stephen Fleming who played a clip shot straight to Shaun Pollock in the deep.
When SA came onto chase the runs, Kyle Mills brought New Zealand strongly back in the match with a triple blow dismissing Dippenaar, Gibbs and Kallis. Dippenaar was out in the first over itself after he paid penalty for playing across the line and getting lbw to one that angled in and straightened. Gibbs was also out for a duck like Dippenaar after he was bowled through the gate and Kallis was caught and bowled brilliantly as he tried to check his drive but of no avail. Jacob Oram joined the party as well making good use of the wicket with some smart variations in the pace and he also provided a triple strike leaving South Africa at 71 for 6 in the 23rd over. Graeme Smith who was looking to be the only hope for the Proteas was one of the three victims of Oram as he had failed in clearing mid on in his attempted lofted shot. Pollock was the third victim as he played his drive early and with the ball stopping onto the bat, it was a simple catch that spooned upto covers. South Africa soon crashed out to 108 after 34.1 overs with off spinner Jeetan Patel taking three wickets in his 3.1 overs. Vettori chipped in with one wicket. Justin Kemp was stranded on an unbeaten 26 and he had absolutely no chance of taking his side to victory with so many runs to get with hardly any wickets left when he had come out to bat.
Stephen Fleming for his great innings in the afternoon was declared as the Man of the Match. Today’s match has shown that the batsmen need to stay as long as possible in the middle and graft the runs rather than going for the fancy shots. The pitches on offer look unsettled and this trend of low scores might continue as the tournament progresses. The spinners are expected to do the damage in each and every game and all sides will be aware of that.