Ponting, Gilchrist steer Aussies to victory

Ricky Ponting scored his 24th one-day 100 and Adam Gilchrist clubbed a ferocious half-century to steer Australia to a convincing seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the opening Chappell Hadlee Trophy series game in Adelaide on Friday.

Skipper Ponting cruised to an unbeaten 107 off 108 balls with 13 boundaries to glide Australia home to victory with 45 balls to spare after opening batsman Gilchrist had crashed six fours and two sixes in his 51 off just 29 balls.

The Australians always were in command despite a rain delay and polished off the runs with ease to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series with the next match in Sydney on Sunday.

Set 255 to win, Australia reached the target for the loss of three wickets in the 43rd over.

Receiving a stroke of good fortune on 38 when he snicked Chris Martin behind only to be reprieved by umpire Mark Benson’s call of no-ball, Gilchrist played with uninhibited freedom virtually to decide the contest.

Gilchrist’s exit, skying Martin to cover, left Australia requiring a mere four runs per over.

Ponting, Michael Clarke (48) and Andrew Symonds (28 not out) made light of the run chase despite a 48-minute rain delay.

Brendon McCullum fell four runs short of his maiden one-day century as New Zealand totalled 254 for seven off 50 overs.

The belligerent wicketkeeper-batsman, opening the innings, crashed 12 boundaries and a six off 103 balls before he holed out to Nathan Bracken in the deep off wrist-spinner Brad Hogg for 96 with a first one-day international century beckoning.

The Black Caps, who won the last Chappell Hadlee series 3-0 at home last February, started well but tailed off late in the innings to set the Australians just more than five runs an over for victory at the Adelaide Oval.

The Australians restricted them to 59 runs from the final 10 overs.

Number-five batsman Ross Taylor (50) also made his presence felt off 52 balls with three sixes before he found a leading edge off Brett Lee and was well caught by Tait at deep mid-off.

Clean hitter Jacob Oram (32 not out) rounded off proceedings with his customary power off 38 balls clubbing three boundaries.

Tait (3-59) was the best of the Australian bowlers, while Lee (2-48) and all-rounder James Hopes (1-40) bowled steadily.

McCullum’s knock was the highlight of New Zealand’s innings, cracking boundaries to all parts in an innings reminiscent of his efforts against the Australians at home in February. He took a particularly heavy toll on Tait, exploiting the young paceman’s broad variation in line and length.

Lee also suffered punishment from McCullum, one extraordinary back-foot swish at a full pitched ball sailing well over the point boundary.

Chastened by a first spell that cost 28 in three overs, Tait proved a greater threat in his second, claiming the outside edges of How (20 from 59 balls) and then Scott Styris (five). — Sapa-AFP

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