Champs Trophy: mission accomplished

6 October 2009

The curtain came down on another major international sporting event in South Africa on Monday, as Australia ended the run of giant-killers New Zealand to claim the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy.

The competition went off without a glitch, and will serve as a useful yardstick for the International Cricket Council to measure the 50-overs-a-side game against Twenty20 cricket.

Earlier in the year, South Africa hosted the Indian Premier League (IPL) and now, on the same grounds, the ICC can compare how much of a crowd-puller the longer form of the game is against the shorter game.

South African crowd support for the Champions Trophy was decent, but markedly smaller than for the IPL which, with its mix of cricket and show business, took the country by storm and drew near full houses throughout its 59-match duration.

Having said that, the elimination of the Proteas from the Champions Trophy after the pool stages undoubtedly took some gloss off the event for local cricket supporters.

The pitches

Something else that some liked, while others did not, was that the Wanderers pitch in particular – SuperSport Park in Centurion outside Pretoria was the other venue – offered a more balanced challenge between bat and ball than has been seen in limited overs cricket in recent times.

The trend has been to favour batsmen over bowlers; in fact, the six highest totals in 50 overs history have been scored since 12 March 2006, when South Africa famously chased down Australia’s 434 to total 438 for 9 – at the Wanderers.

One wonders whether the ICC welcomed the fairer pitches. After all, they have been looking at ways to increase the appeal of the 50-overs-a-side game, contrasted as it is against the fireworks of Twenty20 cricket.

The Champions Trophy went down well, but it admittedly made a much smaller splash than the IPL; now, the ICC might want to take note of South Africa’s upcoming domestic limited competition, which will introduce a number of innovations, all aimed at jazzing up the “longer” shorter version of the game.

It’s not that the Champions Trophy wasn’t successful. It was. It’s just that, contrasted against the IPL, one-day international cricket may have to fight for its survival.

Comfortable win for Australia

Following Monday’s final in Centurion, a familiar name will be carved on the ICC Champions Trophy.

With New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, the player of the match in their semi-final win over Pakistan, out of the match with a hamstring strain, the Black Caps went into the contest missing their most important player, and it showed in a comfortable win for Australia, achieved with 28 balls to spare.

Stand-in skipper Brendon McCullum opted to bat after winning the toss, but it backfired on him personally as he went for a duck after a 14-ball stay at the top of the order.

Partnerships

New Zealand’s second-wicket partnership of 61 between Aaron Redmond and Martin Guptill proved to be the Kiwis’ best stand of the innings. Guptill’s 40 was their highest score, as only Neil Broom (37) and James Franklin (33) also passed 30.

Aussie off-spinner Nathan Hauritz proved the most successful bowler, snaring 3 for 37 from his 10 overs, as New Zealand struggled to 200 for 9 in their 50 overs.

An in-form and battle-hardened Australia, who came into the Champions Trophy on the back of a six-one series thrashing of England, and had a number of batsmen in good form, weren’t going to be challenged by that total, although the New Zealanders made it difficult for them in the early overs.

Century

Opener Shane Watson struck his second century in the competition, an undefeated 105, to guide his side to victory and win player of the match honours, as they reached 206 for 4 after 45.2 overs.

Kyle Mills did his best to stop the Australia run chase, knocking over an impressive 3 for 27 from his 10 overs. Good bowling from Mills and Shane Bond put the Aussies under early pressure, but they needed more support from the rest of the bowling attack and didn’t get it.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting failed on the night, falling to Mills for one, but he was named Player of the Series after scoring the most runs in the competition, 288, and leading his team with distinction.

Cameron White combined with Watson to put on 128 for the third wicket, contributing 62 from his bat before departing with only 50 runs needed for victory.

Despite the loss, the Champions Trophy served as a nice boost to New Zealand cricket. The lightly-regarded Black Caps had surprised a number of teams on the way to the final to show that they have the ability to compete with the best.

After opening their challenge with a five-wicket loss to South Africa, they comfortably beat Sri Lanka and England to qualify for the semi-finals. There they beat an in-form Pakistan in the final four.

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