Pivotal Johnson propels Australia
Australia had to rely on the all-round talents of Mitchell Johnson to claim a 50-run win against West Indies side to open their ICC Champions Trophy title defence in Johannesburg today.
Batting first, the Australians had been given a solid start on a tricky Wanderers wicket by skipper Ricky Ponting as he hit 79, but when he fell as one of five wickets for 51 runs the reigning world champions were in danger of being upstaged by a Windies cast of relative unknowns.
Australia were 171 for seven when Johnson strode out to bat, but he belied the situation to smash his way to his maiden ODI half-century and help Australia recover to a score of 275 for eight.
Johnson then provided the crucial moment in the field when an 86-run stand between Andre Fletcher and Travis Dowlin, who made 54 and 55 respectively had the Windies on course for victory at 124 for one.
Johnson ran out Fletcher with a rocket direct-hit throw from mid-off and from there the Windies folded to be all out for 225 in 46.5 overs.
West Indies, without their big names, had provided little resistence with the bat in their opening game against Pakistan when they were routed for just 133.
They lost opener Devon Smith for just 17 when he was bowled by Peter Siddle in the sixth over but Fletcher and Dowlin then steadily progressed the score en-route to half centuries.
The pair had looked untroubled on an improving surface to take the score to 124 in the 25th over before Fletcher timed a drive to Johnson’s left at mid-off and immediately set off only to be caught short when the quick’s throw hit the stumps.
Brett Lee then claimed the key wicket of Dowlin when he top-edged an attempted pull which wicketkeeper Tim Paine expertly held onto with a diving catch after turning and racing back 20 metres.
The Windies were still well-placed at that stage with the score on 170 for four in the 37th over, but their lack of experience told in the final overs as they opted to employ big hitting when the required rate of six an over did not require such risk taking.
David Bernard had swung adventurously without luck on numerous occasions before Siddle eventually bowled him with a yorker to wend him back for eight before Shane Watson removed Darren Sammy for 20, who did hit back-to-back sixes off Johnson, and Floyd Reifer for 28 in the same over.
Eventually the Windies were bowled out for 225 when Kemar Roach top-edged Nathan Hauritz to Johnson at short third man.
Australia were indebted to Johnson’s 79 off just 49 balls as they recovered from their mid-innings collapse.
They had lost Watson from the first ball of the game when he was bowled by an inswinging Roach yorker before Paine and Ponting overcame the tricky early conditions to put on 85.
When Paine fell for a watchful 33, caught by wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton off Bernard, Ponting increased the tempo smashing 17 from one Roach over as he reached his 50 from 63 balls.
But the skipper was one of five wickets to fall for just 51 runs in mid-innings as Australia stuttered.
The impressive Nikita Miller, who took 2-24, had Ponting stumped by Walton, before also turning one through the defences of Cameron White as Australia plunged to 171 for seven in the 40th over.
They were in danger of posting an inadequate total until Johnson and Lee combined in a quick stand of 70 from 52 balls, marked by Johnson’s big hitting.
They quickly hit Sammy for back-to-back sixes over the mid-wicket ropes before taking 21 off the penultimate over to complete his recovery mission.