If South Africa were asked what would be the most pleasing sight in the World Cup semifinal against Australia here on Wednesday, they wouldn’t hesitate with their reply: “Matthew Hayden’s back”.
“The sooner, the better,” they would promptly add, because the Australian left-hander has been batting in the tournament as if he only knows how to score explosive hundreds and half-centuries.
Hayden is the tournament’s leading scorer with 580 runs in nine matches with three hundreds and one half-century, but what is more important than the statistics is the manner in which he has been scoring runs.
He is only the third batsman after compatriot Mark Waugh and Indian Sourav Ganguly to score three centuries in one World Cup. The 35-year-old is a nightmare for opposing bowlers with his consistent big-hitting, having the shots to exploit the powerplays with fielding restrictions and then building an innings in the middle overs.
Who knows it better than South Africa, who were condemned to retrieve the ball from various parts of the ground during their first encounter with defending champions Australia in a group match at St Kitts last month.
Hayden flayed the South African attack as he smashed the fastest Cup century off 66 balls, surpassing Canadian John Davison’s 67-ball hundred against the West Indies in a league match of the 2003 edition in South Africa.
It has been a remarkable change of fortune for Hayden. He had been struggling to become a regular feature in a strong Australian one-day side since making his debut more than a decade ago. He was in and out of the team after his mediocre Ashes campaign in England in 2005.
“He has got to be in the form of his career as far as the one-day version of the game goes and it’s nice to have him back in the side,” said Australia captain Ricky Ponting. “He has worked hard to do that and it has been a treat for everyone to watch and he’s dragging a few of us along with him. Hopefully, with two more games the big fella can keep churning out runs,” he expressed.
But Hayden believes his runs will mean little if Australia fail to complete a hat-trick, having won the Cup in 1999 in England and 2003 in South Africa. “It has been a great tournament so far, but we have got two more games to go and the first one is in St Lucia, so it’ll be worth absolutely zero if we don’t go all the way now,” said Hayden.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work. To be part of this great team you need to work very hard. You can never take anything for granted. When I was out of the side I certainly didn’t do that. I was always looking for an opportunity,” he explained.
Hayden grabbed the opportunity with both hands when he was included in the side for a triangular one-day series at home also involving England and New Zealand before the World Cup.
He then hammered an unbeaten 181 with 10 sixes in New Zealand in his last match before the Caribbean tournament, both records by an Australian batsman in One-day Internationals (ODIs).
Hayden became an important part of the team after a successful tour of India in 2001 under Steve Waugh’s captaincy. His side lost the Test series, but he left a mark with 549 runs in three matches with two centuries.
He found a place in one-dayers against India following his impressive Test form and scored his maiden century in the shorter version of the game during the series. Hayden is now enjoying batting on Caribbean pitches and he only hopes he continues in the same vein. “There have been good wickets throughout the Caribbean and hopefully that will continue,” he said.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 and is filed under Cricket, Cricket Stars.
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