England.. be prepared and wait for five more days for the Australians to arrive in their homeland. Its not going to be easy defending the Ashes this winter. The Australian Juggernaut marches on to the finals of the Championship Trophy, crushing the opponents that came in their path. The latest victim being the hapless Kiwi team. Though to their credit the New Zealanders did their best to survive as long as they did after being 35 for six at one stage. Of course, to the followers of this year's Chamions Trophy, batting collapses of this nature have kind of become neither shocking or surprising.
Nothing seems to be capable of dismantling the Aussie team spirit which always finds one or the other to raise to the occasion and deliver a crushing blow in reverse whenever the chips are down. After Fleming won the toss and put Australia in to take advantage of the pitch Kyle mills responded immediately by removing both Aussie openers Shane Watson & Adam Gilchrist in space of 4 deliveries in his second and Innings' 3rd over. It looked as if the curse of Champions trophy, which eluded Australia in its 10 yr history and also never gave a chance for Australia to reach the finals , surfacing again.
For a moment Ponting's confidence of overcoming the New Zealand team in the semi-finals which made him give a statement to "The Australian" newspaper one day before the event: "There are no excuses now for us, We've got a good team, we've got a full list of guys to pick from and we're playing a semi-final at a venue that we've just played a game on. We can't complain with the way things have worked out for us." sounded a little bit cocky.
But Ponting though looked shaky to begin with, played a glorious innings of 58 to build the innings together without letting it fall into further disarray. Ponting first added 66 runs for the 3rd wicket with my man of the tournament Damien Martyn and then another 53 runs with the sure-to-be-his-successor Michael Hussey to make sure Australia doesn't falter in their quest for the long eluding champions trophy. Andrew Symonds then showed why he is a key-player of this Australian team by playing his trademark innings. After Symonds fell at 211 in the 46th over, the last four overs yielded just 29 runs with Kyle Mills finishing another great spell of the tournament with figures of 4 for 38. Though the Australians reached a respectable total of 240 in the end it did not quite look like a winning one.
But tell that to the Australian bowling machine Glen McGrath, whom everybody started writing off, including yours truly. In an incisive spell of 3 for 22 bowling all of his overs quota on a trot McGrath not only broke the back of New Zealand batting but made his bowling mates too to raise to the occasion to send the top 6 kiwi batsmen back to the pavilion before the score reached 36. Had it not been for a mess up by Hussey who dropped a sitter in the slips when Vettori was just on 5, New Zealand may have not even reached 50.
Vettori like he did against Sri Lanka earlier played another cameo innings of 79, four runs short of his highest ODI score. With Jacob Oram he added 103 runs in an unbelievable seventh wicket partnership which almost gave a heart attack and ulcers in the stomach for Ponting. With Jacob Oram (43) and Kyle Mills (21) chipping in with useful knocks victory was not a forgone conclusion till Vettori fell as 8th wicket at 180. Even then Bond and Mills hit a barrage of boundaries and the Kangaroos could not take a sigh of relief till Gilchrist took Kyle Mills top edged hit of Brett Lee to ensure a spot for Australia in a Champions Trophy Final for the first time. I am sure the Kangaroos want to celebrate occasion by winning it.
Can anybody bet against it? I doubt.