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ICC World Cup
Sardar Patel (Gujarat) Stadium, Ahmedabad
Defending champions Australia eased to a 91-run victory over Zimbabwe in their opening World Cup fixture in Ahmedabad.
Ricky Ponting's men enjoyed a relatively trouble-free start to their title defence, comfortably defending their total of 262-6 as Zimbabwe slumped to 171 all out.
The victory, set up by half-centuries from Shane Watson (79) and Michael Clarke (58 not out), extends Australia's unbeaten run to 30 World Cup matches in a streak that dates back to 1999.
The total always looked too big for Zimbabwe to haul down and so it proved as Mitchell Johnson (4-19), Shaun Tait (2-34) and Jason Krejza (2-28) shared eight wickets to end the match with 3.4 overs to spare.
With Sri Lanka and New Zealand already up and running with opening-round victories in Group A, Australia took to the Sardar Patel Stadium looking to lay down an early marker against African minnows Zimbabwe.
However, despite winning the toss and opting to bat first on a docile pitch, Ponting's men made a subdued start as Zimbabwe's slow bowlers applied early pressure.
Openers Watson and Brad Haddin (29 off 66 balls) had laboured to only 53-0 after 15 overs and their partnership was broken in the 18th over when the latter was trapped lbw by Prosper Utseya.
Watson and Ponting upped the ante in the middle part of the innings, the former reaching his half-century from 69 balls before smashing a six to bring up the 50 partnership.
But a double strike gave Zimbabwe hope as first Watson was adjudged lbw off leg-spinner Graeme Cremer, and then Ponting (28) was run out by a superb direct hit from Chris Mpofu out in the deep.
Australia still had wickets up their sleeve though, and the early platform allowed Cameron White (22), David Hussey (14) and Steven Smith (11) to play freely.
Clarke finished unbeaten on 58 from 55 balls - his third successive half-century following back-to-back efforts in the recent ODI series against England on home soil.
Zimbabwe duo Brendan Taylor and Charles Coventry were charged with taming Australia's fiery new ball duo of Tait and Brett Lee, a job they did well until the sixth over.
Coventry was the first to fall, only succeeding in top-edging a pull straight up in the air with Lee moving back to claim a smart return catch.
The match was effectively over as a contest by the 12th over as Tatenda Taibu and Taylor fell with the score on 40; the former edged Johnson to Watson at slip while Taylor had his middle stump uprooted by Tait.
The wickets continued to tumble, Craig Ervine (0) and captain Elton Chigumbura (14) offering little resistance, before Sean Williams crafted a counter-attacking 28.
Australia looked on course for a speedy victory, however any such hopes were held up by a battling 49-run partnership for the eighth wicket between Utseya (27) and Cremer (37).
Both men followed up their exploits with the ball with stubborn knocks down the order, before the reintroduction of leftarmer Johnson promptly wrapped up proceedings.
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