Half-centuries by South Africa’s openers set up a surprisingly easy seven-wicket victory over Australia on Tuesday in a World Cup warm-up match, giving the holders’ skipper Ricky Ponting much food for thought.
In particular, another slump by his middle order will concern Ponting.
Chasing a modest 218 for victory, South Africa captain Graeme Smith (65 retired) and Hashim Amla (60 retired) survived a barrage of leg before and caught behind appeals by Brett Lee and Shaun Tait early on, before settling down to put on 131 runs.
Smith then retired undefeated followed by Amla to give their teammates some batting practice and J.P. Duminy (47 not out) duly anchored the innings to take his team home inside 45 overs.
Although the match was only a friendly, the result which comes hot on the heels of Australia’s 38-run defeat to World Cup hosts India on Sunday will concern Ponting ahead of the tournament opening on Saturday.
In their innings, Australia made 217 all out, with Ponting (55) and Michael Clarke (73) top scoring in a 122-run partnership for the third wicket which at least gave them some time at the crease after the two openers were dismissed with just six runs on the board.
It was 36-year-old Ponting’s second half-century of the week.
Clarke, coming off a drop in form, spent some quality time and his gritty knock against the strong South Africa pace battery should instill some confidence.
However, the form of the middle order, badly missing Michael Hussey, who was left out of the squad after injury, will worry Ponting after its failure against India two days earlier.
Australia slipped from a comfortable 127 for two in the 30th over to be bowled out for 217 inside their quota of overs for the second match in a row.
Paceman Dale Steyn and left-arm spinner Robin Peterson took three wickets each as the Proteas’ fast bowlers and spinners shared the spoils.
While Peterson accounted for the middle order, Steyn accounted for the dangerous Shane Watson (0), before returning to mop up the tail.
Pakistan-born leg spinner Imran Tahir was again impressive despite picking up just one wicket, while Lonwabo Tsotsobe shrugged off a strained right knee to also pick up one wicket.
In the field, Australia used as many as eight bowlers, but the only wicket to fall was by a run-out.
Ponting turned to spin in the 15th over, but neither Jason Krejza, Steven Smith nor Michael Clarke could stem the flow of runs or break the opening partnership.
Australia kick off their title defense against Zimbabwe on Monday and South Africa take on the West Indies in Delhi three days later.
ENGLAND v CANADA
Stuart Broad grabbed a five-wicket haul as England doused late resistance from big-hitting Rizwan Cheema to carve out a narrow 16-run victory over Canada yesterday.
Rizwan threatened to take the game away with his explosive 70-ball 93, before Broad struck to remove the batsman and restrict Canada to 227 off 46.1 overs in reply to England’s 243 all out at the Fatullah Stadium in Dhaka.
The paceman, making a surprise comeback after a stomach injury, finished with 5-37 to add to the efforts of Matt Prior (78) and Jonathan Trott (57) with the bat after England won the toss and elected to bat.
It was paceman Ajmal Shahzad (2-44) who started the rot when he dismissed the dangerous John Davison for 1. Davison had smashed 111 off 67 balls, then a World Cup record, in a losing effort against the West Indies in 2003.