Watson steers Aussies to glory

CENTURIAN: Centurion Shane Watson and Cameron White were the batting heroes as title holders Australia coasted to a six-wicket victory over New Zealand in the Champions Trophy final here on Monday.

New Zealand scored 200-9 off 50 overs at cool, overcast SuperSport Park and Australia overcame two early blips to reach 206-4 in 45.2 overs and confirm their dominance of the 50-over format with back-to-back titles.

The fair-haired pair came together with the defending champions reeling at 6-2 after the loss of skipper Ricky Ponting for one on the pitch where he hit an unbeaten century against England three days ago. But New Zealand speedsters Kyle Mills and Shane Bond could not bag further early victims and Watson, who began the tournament with two ducks, led the way with an unbeaten 105 as Australia became the first team to lift the cup twice.

Largely anonymous having made only 44 runs in three innings, White timed his Champions Trophy impact perfectly to score 62 and Australia maintained their dominance over New Zealand on neutral territory with 16 wins in 17 clashes.

The Black Caps suffered a blow hours before the final when inspirational skipper and all-rounder Daniel Vettori withdrew because of a hamstring strain. Stand-in skipper and wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum had a final to forget, being out for a duck and dropping White when he and Watson were beginning to develop a stand that yielded 128 runs.

New Zealand made a disappointing total on a batsman-friendly track after the early, cheap loss of McCullum, who failed to score off 13 deliveries before nicking a ball to wicketkeeper Tim Paine. Fellow opener Aaron Redmond and Martin Guptill scored slowly in putting on 61 runs for the second wicket, the second best partnership after Neil Broom and Jesse Franklin.

Redmond was stumped by Paine after taking a wild swing at a Nathan Hauritz ball and as wickets fell steadily the ‘Black Caps’ slumped to 94-5 with 26.4 overs gone. The brittle Kiwis desperately needed a partnership and although Broom and Franklin struggled to quicken the run rate, they added 65 runs before the former was needlessly run out.

Broom struck five fours in his 37 and when Franklin was bowled by Brett Lee in the next over for 33, the pressure was on the men in black as Hauritz, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson remained in the ascendancy. The tail did not offer much venom with Champions Trophy debutant Jeetan Patel (16 not out) claiming the most runs and the consensus was that 200 was not enough runs.

After the fall of Paine and Ponting, Watson and White gradually shed the cloak of caution, started going after the bowlers and a couple of sixes steered Australia to 86-2 midway through the innings. The third-wicket pair put on 128 and took the game away from the Kiwis.

Ponting voted star

CENTURION: Ricky Ponting was named player of the tournament after leading Australia to a six-wicket victory over New Zealand on Monday in the Champions Trophy final at SuperSport Park. He also finished with the most runs from the two-week mini-World Cup in South Africa, scoring 288 in five matches to finish 23 ahead of teammate and double-centurion Shane Watson. There was a silver lining to a largely disappointing tournament for hosts South Africa, who were eliminated after the group phase, with 11-wicket Wayne Parnell the most successful bowler. — AFP