The Big Picture
The inaugural Over-50s Cricket World Cup from Sydney, Australia has almost reached its climax, and it will be heavyweights Australia and Pakistan who will do battle in the final tomorrow from the Drummoyne Oval after coming away victorious in their semi-final encounters yesterday afternoon.
In the first semi-final, top qualifiers Australia, who went through the round-robin phase unbeaten, defeated New Zealand by four runs in a thrilling run-fest at Hurstville Oval. Led by a superb 88 from the captain and leading run-scorer Peter Solway, the Australians racked up 273/6 batting first. And despite an attacking 76 from Adrian Dale, they repelled a spirited New Zealand charge at the target, which came down to the last ball.
In the second semi-final at Rosedale Oval, second-placed Pakistan, who also went through the round-robin unbeaten (with one match being washed out), defeated England by five wickets with an over to spare. Despite half-centuries from Stephen Foster and Mel Hussein, Pakistan put in a disciplined bowling performance to restrict England to 184/5 in their 45 overs. This was backed up an unbeaten century from Sajid Ali, who anchored the chase and guided Pakistan home.
The Plate semi-finals saw Canada overcome Sri Lanka in convincing fashion, chasing down 166 with seven wickets and over ten overs to spare. Whilst in the second Plate semi-final, South Africa completed a similar chase against Wales reaching their target of 159 with five wickets to spare. South Africa and Canada are currently contesting the Plate final at Bankstown Oval today.
Australia are the favourites
With the depth of cricket at the over-50s level in Australia, it was no surprise that they, alongside England, came into the tournament as favourites.
Yet again, they showed why they had gone through the tournament unbeaten after an aggressive batting effort saw them rack up a huge 273, after winning the toss and batting first against New Zealand. Captain Peter Solway had been at the forefront of that batting effort, and when it counted, the skipper delivered yet again, stroking an effortless 88 off 89 balls, with nine fours and one six, to set up the Australians for their massive total. It took his run tally to 365 for the tournament, at the staggering average of 132.50.
Earlier, opener Trent Ryan set the pace for Australia with a blistering 58 off 46 balls. When he was dismissed, Solway took over, putting on 109 for the fourth wicket with Tony Clark, who hit 48 off 56 balls himself. At 218/4, wickets in the bank allowed Australian to push hard at the end to get to a total which asked New Zealand to score at more than six runs per over.
It was a tough day for the New Zealand bowlers, no doubt a bit tired and fatigued after all teams had played seven matches over two weeks leading into the knockout contests. Former New Zealand international Richard Petrie took 1/26 off his five overs, whilst Adrian Dale was expensive but claimed key wickets as he took 3/62 from his eight.
New Zealand had been a steady batting unit throughout the tournament, with Petrie, Dale and wicket-keeper Mason Robinson all featuring in the top five run-scorers to date. However, the tall chase was going to require them to accelerate from the start of the innings. Petrie and Robinson put on 47 for the first wicket before Australia claimed two quick wickets to have them at 98/3.
Robbie Kerr then joined Dale and they put on a swift 67 for the fourth wicket to put New Zealand on pace with the chase. Kerr made 38 off 37 balls before another double-strike from Stephen Gollan saw him exit along with the captain Nigel Fletcher. Gollan ended up with 3/44 from his eight overs.
While contributions from the lower-order kept them in the contest, the target seemed out of reach at 233/8 with three overs to go. However, Lincoln Doull and Martin Pennefather fought right to the very end and gave New Zealand an outside chance with 17 required off the final over bowled by Tim Sargent. With five needed off the final ball, Sargent claimed his fourth wicket after Pennefather holed out in the deep, to give Australia a four-run win in a match deserving of a final.
Pakistan join Australia in the battle of the undefeated sides
It might be ironic or almost serendipitous that the two sides who will meet in the final tomorrow had their round-robin match abandoned due to rain and will both be undefeated coming into the big contest. However, Pakistan, who boast a number of former internationals in their side including Ijaz Ahmed, will be under no illusion that a tough match awaits against Australia, after accounting for England more comfortably in their semi-final.
After winning the toss and batting first, England were in all sorts of trouble early on. After Simon Myles and captain, Gary Loveday were both dismissed by Dastagir Butt without a run on the board, Scott Stratton was then run-out to have England reeling at 13/3.
And so, the rest of the innings became a recovery mission of sorts with Foster and Hussein slowly but surely digging England out of their early hole by putting on 96 runs for the fourth wicket. Foster was the more aggressive of the two batsmen, making 71 off 97 balls, which included five boundaries. After he was dismissed, it was left to Hussein to anchor the innings and that he did, almost batting through to the end in making 56 off 92 balls. The pair ensured England had at least something to bowl at in finishing their innings on 184/5.
Led earlier on by Butt, who claimed 2/23 off his five overs, the Pakistani bowling effort didn't let up after the initial onslaught, keeping the England run-rate in check, very gettable at just over four runs per over.
England came out firing though in defending the chase, with openers Jaffar Quereshi and Shahid Anwar gone cheaply as Sean Cooper and Chris Priest bowled probing opening spells. At 6/2 Pakistan needed someone to guide the chase and found someone they did as Ali stepped up while the rest of the middle-order batted around him in partnerships.
With the run-rate not an issue, and weathering the initial new ball, Ali put on 52 for the third wicket with Ghulam Ali, before combining with skipper Ghaffar Kazmi to score 58 runs for the fourth wicket. At 116/4, England needed a breakthrough but the consistency in partnerships built as Javed Hafeez joined Ali to put on 59 for the fifth wicket. Ali got his century shortly thereafter and remained unbeaten on 102, as Pakistan got home with an over to spare.
While Cooper (2/22 off 8) and Priest (1/30 off 8), bowled well early on, England couldn't provide the incisions needed often enough to defend the lower than par target.
Pakistan and Australia will face off at the Drummoyne Oval tomorrow morning, with the match starting at 10.15am local time, and live-scoring of the match available online. It is a match which promises to be a tough battle of arguably the two best sides at the tournament.
Australia 273/6 (45) (Solway 88, Ryan 59, Clark 48, Dale 3/62) defeated New Zealand 269/9 (45) (Dale 76, Kerr 38, Robinson 34, Sargent 4/65, Gollan 3/44) by four runs.
England 184/5 (45) (Foster 71, Hussein 56, Butt 2/23) lost to Pakistan 185/5 (44) (Ali 102*, Cooper 2/22) by five wickets.
Sri Lanka 163/8 (45) (Von Hagt 52, Gibson 4/34) lost to Canada 166/3 (34.3) (Rajadurai 58, Jayasekera 34, Rambukwella 1/19) by seven wickets.
Wales 157 all out (44.2) (Williams 40, Rippon 2/23, Marx 2/29) lost to South Africa 158/5 (38.2) (Duncan 42*, Koster 32, Hudson 1/20) by five wickets.