Symonds leads Australia to first Champions final

All-rounder Andrew Symonds led Australia to their first ICC Champions Trophy final on Wednesday with a 34-run victory against a never-say-die New Zealand in the first semifinal.

Symonds smashed a run-a-ball 58 in Australia’s challenging total of 240-9 off 50 overs and then took the vital wicket of Jacob Oram (43) as the world champions bowled out a fighting New Zealand for 206 in 46 overs.

Australia had failed to go beyond the semifinal in their previous two attempts in the Champions Trophy. They will now play the final at Mumbai on Sunday against the winner of the second semifinal between the West Indies and South Africa at Jaipur on Thursday.

Fast bowler Glenn McGrath’s (3-22) superb spell in an unchanged 10 overs had reduced New Zealand to 35-6 in the 15th over before Oram and top-scorer Daniel Vettori (79) made a remarkable turnaround with a record-breaking 103-run partnership off 126 balls.

Adam Gilchrist brilliantly stumped Oram off Symonds in the 36th over, which opened up the Kiwis’ tail and, despite a late assault by the last-wicket pair of Kyle Mills and Shane Bond, the Kiwis fell short of the target.

New Zealand could have been 47-7, but Michael Hussey dropped a sitter in the slips when Vettori was on five as both the left-handers took charge once McGrath was out of the attack.

McGrath got the wickets of Lou Vincent (1), Hamish Marshall (5) and Peter Fulton (2), while Stephen Fleming (15) and Brendon McCullum (1) fell to Nathan Bracken (2-36) in quick succession before Vettori and Oram came together.

Captain Ricky Ponting and Symonds earlier compiled identical scores of 58 runs and were ably supported by Hussey (35) after Australia cheaply lost opening batsmen Shane Watson and Adam Gilchrist to fast bowler Mills.

Mills gave New Zealand a dream start with two wickets in four deliveries after captain Fleming won the toss and chose to field first on a hard and bouncy Punjab Cricket Association stadium wicket.

The right-arm fast bowler returned for his second spell and removed Ponting and Michael Clarke (14) to finish with fine figures of 4-38 off his sharp 10 overs.

Mills got an appreciable movement off the seam on the same wicket where Pakistan caved in for just 89 runs against South Africa last Friday.
He struck in his second over and removed Watson and Gilchrist in four deliveries.

Watson mis-timed a pull shot and spooned an easy catch at mid-off and Gilchrist chipped a flick straight to a diving Oram at square leg three balls later as Australia stumbled to 4-2.

Bond also tested Damien Martyn and Ponting with some sharp deliveries and beat the bat on number of occasions before the batsmen combined for 66 runs and rebuilt the innings.

Left-arm spinner Vettori trapped Martyn lbw in his opening spell, but Hussey shared a 53-run partnership with Ponting off 57 deliveries, who upped the tempo of the innings, adding another 65 runs off 67 balls with Symonds.

Ponting, who posted his 55th limited-overs half century, faced 80 balls with eight boundaries but soon perished when Mills returned for his second spell. Vettori once again took a fine catch when the Australian skipper misread Mills’s slower delivery and lobbed a catch at mid-on.

Bond clean bowled Symonds and Brett Lee in his return spell as Australia could muster only 52 runs in the last 10 overs.—Sapa-AP

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