Cricket World Cup round up Zimbabwe initially cause problems but Ricky Ponting's side come through.
Australia extend unbeaten run at cricket World Cup
Defending champions Australia unbeaten run in the World Cup was extended to 30 with a 91-run win over Zimbabwe in their opening Group A clash at Ahmedabad.
Batting first, Ricky Ponting's side endured testing spin conditions for large parts of their innings but Shane Watson's 79 and some late hitting by Michael Clarke (58 not out) racked up a respectable 262 for the four-time cup winners.
In response, Zimbabwe crumbled in the face of Australia's pace attack as Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait picked up three and two wickets respectively with spinner Jason Krejza chipping in with two of his own to help skittle their opponents out for 171.
Zimbabwe's introduction of spin early on almost paid dividends when Brad Haddin's mistimed pull off Prosper Utseya saw the ball hit the base of the stumps without dislodging the bails.
The pressure at last told, with Haddin – trapped lbw – the first World Cup batsman to be given out from a reviewed decision.
Watson reached his half-century from 69 balls en route to the fifty partnership between himself and Ponting (28), but Zimbabwe dismissed both batsmen in successive overs.
Australia notched up 90 runs in the last 10 overs, with Cameron White (22), David Hussey (14) and Steven Smith (11) providing valuable support to Clarke at the death.
The Aussies struck early in the run chase, Charles Coventry (14) caught and bowled off a trademark Brett Lee bouncer, and despite some promising strokes from Tatenda Taibu, Mitchell Johnson had him caught in the slip cordon for seven.
Things went from bad to worse when Brendan Taylor (16) was bowled by Shaun Tait while Johnson picked up his second of the innings, trapping Craig Ervine leg-before for nought.
Sean Williams (28) and captain Elton Chigumbura (14) worked a minor rescue act with a 44-run stand. But the latter's sweep off Krejza only lobbed a simple catch for keeper Haddin, while Williams fell soon after to Tait.
Cremer (37) and Utseya (24) put on a last-ditch 49 for the eighth wicket but it was too little too late as the last two batsmen fell for just 18 runs.
Shane Watson lbw b Cremer 79
Brad Haddin lbw b Utseya 29
Ricky Ponting run out 28
Michael Clarke not out 58
Cameron White b Mpofu 22
David Hussey b Price 14
Steve Smith c Chakabva b Mpofu 11
Mitchell Johnson not out 7
Extras: (7lb, 7w) 14
TOTAL: (for six wickets) 262
Fall of wickets: 1-61, 2-140, 3-144, 4-207, 5-241, 6-254.
Did not bat: Jason Krejza, Brett Lee, Shaun Tait.
Bowling: Chris Mpofu 9-0-58-2 (2w), Ray Price 10-0-43-1 (1w), Prosper Utseya 10-2-43-1 (2w), Graeme Cremer 10-0-41-1 (1w), Brendan Taylor 3-0-23-0, Elton Chigumbura 2-0-18-0 (1w), Sean Williams 6-0-29-0.
Brendan Taylor b Tait 16
Charles Coventry c & b Lee 14
Tatenda Taibu c Watson b Johnson 7
Craig Ervine lbw b Johnson 0
Elton Chigumbura c Haddin b Krejza 14
Sean Williams c Watson b Tait 28
Regis Chakabva lbw b Krezja 6
Prosper Utseya c Ponting b Hussey 24
Graeme Cremer c Haddin b Johnson 37
Ray Price not out 5
Chris Mpofu c Haddin b Johnson 2
Extras: (4b, 9lb, 3w, 2nb) 18
TOTAL: (all out) 171
Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-40, 3-40, 4-44, 5-88, 6-96, 7-104, 8-153, 9-167, 10-171.
Bowling: Shaun Tait 9-1-34-2 (1nb, 2w), Brett Lee 8-1-34-1 (1nb, 1w), Mitchell Johnson 9.2-2-19-4, Jason Krejza 8-0-28-2, Shane Watson 3-0-7-0, Steve Smith 5-0-24-0, David Hussey 4-1-12-1.
Result: Australia won by 91 runs.
Umpires: Asoka de Silva, Sri Lanka, and Richard Kettleborough, England.
TV umpire: Amiesh Saheba, India. Match referee: Roshan Mahanama, Sri Lanka.
Botha insists South Africa are no chokers
Off-spinner Johan Botha has denied that South Africa's lack of World Cup titles is because they had lost their nerve in big matches.
Botha told reporters: "it is interesting to say South Africa are chokers, but Australia have won the last three, which means other teams have not won, too."
Australia have triumphed in four World Cups in total, while South Africa have never reached a final despite having the second highest win percentage in the competition. They were losing semi-finalists in 1992, 1999 and 2007.
South Africa open their campaign against the West Indies in a Group B match at New Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla ground on Thursday.
India boosted by injury-free Sachin Tendulkar
Tendulkar, the biggest scorer in the history of the game, stayed behind in Mumbai for the scan on Sunday when the rest of the squad flew to Bangalore for their game with England later this week.
"It's an old injury," Ranjib Biswal told Reuters. "It was just a niggle. It's nothing to worry about. The (MRI) report is all clear."
India won their first match in Dhaka on Saturday, beating Bangladesh by 87 runs. Tendulkar was run out for 28.
Tendulkar became the most capped one-day player in cricket in Saturday's win with his 445th appearance but a mix-up with match-winner Virender Sehwag lost him the chance to join the run feast on a placid track against a weak attack.
India eventually made 370 for four. The 37-year-old is the leading scoring one-day and test batsman and ranked by most experts among the top players of any era.
Ireland's O'Brien in confident mood
Ireland wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien says his team will beat Bangladesh on Friday and spoil the World Cup party for the co-hosts.
Ireland will be playing their first match in Group B, while Bangladesh will be chasing victory after losing to fellow co-hosts India in Saturday's tournament opener.
O'Brien said Monday his team will win and that "if that means spoiling the party, so be it."
Hosting the event for the first time means a lot to Bangladesh.
On the eve of the opening game, tens of thousands of people crammed the streets of Dhaka, singing and dancing.
Canada fear shortened 2015 World Cup will halt development
Canada is fearing for its developing cricket set-up after the International Cricket Council (ICC) confirmed plans to reduce its 50-over World Cup from 14 to 10 teams at the next edition in 2015.
Canada lost their first game against co-hosts Sri Lanka by 210 runs yesterday, adding to the case of ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat's decision to cut the number of teams at the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
"We are worried about that. There is no answer at this point," Canadian coach Pubudu Dassanayake, referring to the ICC's decision, told reporters after the heavy defeat.
"There has been a lot of development in Canada cricket in the last two to three years. But from now onwards we don't know which way we have to go."
Jayawardene wants spinning wickets
Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene is urging World Cup organisers to prepare wickets that are evenly-balanced rather than geared towards helping spin bowlers at the tournament.
Jayawardene scored Sri Lanka's fastest World Cup century against Canada before striking out on a pitch which later allowed his team's pacemen to slice through the Canadian batting line-up.
"We need to prepare good wickets which suits us, but not like big turners," Jayawardene said adding that winning the toss is an important factor on spin-friendly pitches.
Chappell denies he advised Mike Hussey to retire
Greg Chappell, the Australia selector, has denied advising Mike Hussey to retire from international cricket after the veteran's axing from the World Cup squad.
Hussey was critical of selectors leaving him out of the squad named on February 11 in various interviews, leading to Chappell speaking with the batsman three days later in Perth.
Reports in The West Australian today declared the selector had advised Hussey during this meeting to retire rather than try to regain his position in the Australia squad.
However, Chappell denied this report, simply saying to reporters in Melbourne today: "That is untrue."
Prior predicts Pietersen will get England off to a flyer
Matt Prior has joined England's anticipated chorus of approval for Kevin Pietersen's move up the order for the World Cup.
He has no doubts that Pietersen — who opened in both warm-ups and will do so again in tomorrow's Group B opener against Holland in Nagpur — can prove a major success up front.
"If he can get a start he can win games single-handedly," said Prior. "We all know what a phenomenal player he is.
"I think it will suit him, the ball coming on to the bat early on. If he just plays the way he can for 30 or 40 overs, he's going to have a big score - and we're going to have an even bigger score.