Australia racked up a 25th consecutive World Cup victory, defeating New Zealand in an emotional encounter while Ireland wasted a golden opportunity to heap more pain on Bangladesh.
In a match played out against the raw emotional background of the Christchurch earthquake, Australia defeated their trans-Tasman rivals by seven wickets in Nagpur. Mitchell Johnson took 4-33 to help limit New Zealand to 206 with Nathan McCullum top-scoring with 52. Aussie opener Shane Watson then hit 62 as the defending champions, looking for a fourth successive title, reached their target with 16 overs to spare. “New Zealand are a very competitive team and for us to win as well as we have is pretty satisfying,” said Australian captain Ricky Ponting, whose side sit top of Group A with two wins in two matches. Earlier, all the players wore black armbands while a minute’s silence was held to remember the victims of the Christchurch earthquake which has claimed at least 113 lives. As television cameras panned around the VCA ground they found a small knot of Kiwi fans with one spectator holding aloft a simple message on a plain white piece of paper that said: “Thinking of you Christchurch.” Black Caps skipper Daniel Vettori said: “It would be unfair to the people who are going through a lot worse than we are over here to say that was the reason we didn’t play very well today,” he said. “We’re professional sportsmen and we have to get up for these games.” In a roller-coaster day-night Group B match in Dhaka, Ireland threw away a gift-wrapped chance to defeat Bangladesh for the second World Cup in a row. Chasing 206 to win, non-Test playing Ireland were well set at 151-5 but then lost their last five wickets for just 27 runs with seamer Shafiul Islam claiming four Irish victims. In front of 25,000 boisterous fans packed inside the Sher-e-Bangla stadium, Ireland were dismissed for 178 in 45 overs to lose by 27 runs. The initial damage had been done by Bangladesh’s spinners. Former captain Mohammad Ashraful claimed two top-order wickets with his part-time off-spin, skipper Shakib Al Hasan also picked up two with left-arm spin before seamer Shafiul polished off the tail. Irish brothers Niall and Kevin O’Brien scored 38 and 37 respectively before their team’s challenge fizzled out. Earlier, Bangladesh had raced to 49 without loss by the end of the fifth over, with opener Tamim Iqbal going on to make 44 to add to his 70 he made in the loss to India. Bangladesh, who play all their league matches at home, must still beat the Netherlands and at least one of the established teams among England, South Africa and the West Indies to stay in contention for the quarter-finals. “I thought we played really hard cricket although we didn’t bat well. But our bowlers and fielders showed great character and our support was excellent,” said Shakib. Disappointed Irish skipper William Porterfield said a poor batting display cost his side. “It’s not hard to work out where we lost the game. We never settled down with the bat. The first 50 overs was pretty good,” he said. India had an injury scare for Sunday’s game against England in Bangalore when in-form opener Virender Sehwag suffered a rib injury in the nets. But Sehwag, who smashed a blazing 175 in the opening win over Bangladesh, has been passed fit to play in a game where 3,000 police will be on duty. Australia were not so lucky with fast bowler Doug Bollinger, forced to pull out of the rest of the tournament with an ankle injury while West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo will miss four weeks due to an ankle injury.