Watson, Clarke score fifties as Australia score 262

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Ahmedabad, Feb 21 (PTI) Shane Watson and Michael Clarkestruck half centuries but holders Australia struggled for themost part against a spin-oriented Zimbabwe attack beforefinishing at 262 for six in their opening Group A World Cupmatch here today.

Watson, continuing his good form that enabled him toscore over 800 runs in the 2010-11 season, started on acautious note before opening up to score a well-crafted 79 off92 balls, after Ricky Ponting opted to bat first at the SardarPatel Stadium.

He was also involved in two half-century stands, of 61with fellow-opener Brad Haddin (29), and 79 off 75 balls withPonting (28). But his dismissal in the 32nd over, followed bythat of his captain almost immediately, somewhat spoiltAustralia''s plan.

The pair was dismissed in the space of nine balls and itwas then left to Michael Clarke, who made an unbeaten 58 in 55balls, and the lower order batsmen to give the Australianinnings a boost.

Vice captain Clarke, who struck four fours, and CameronWhite (22), who was dropped on 15, set about the task afterthe departure of Watson and Ponting. They raised 63 runs in 73balls, including 32 during the batting powerplay taken between41st and 45th over.

Their fourth-wicket stand yielded 63 runs off 73 balls.

Clarke looked at ease in his unbeaten knock as Australiafinally set their rivals, to whom they have lost just oncein 27 previous meetings, an asking rate of 5.26 to win thematch under lights.

The Aussies, bidding for their fifth world crown andfourth in a row, commenced the title defence on a sedate note,with the first ten overs producing only 28 runs on a wicketthat looked slow and offered low bounce.

Openers Watson and Brad Haddin seemed content to play thewaiting game against the pace-spin opening duo of Chris Mpofuand Ray Price, the left arm slow bowler.

It was spin from both ends, when Zimbabwe skipper EltonChigumbara replaced Mpofu, who conceded just 13 runs in hisfirst five overs, with off spinner Prosper Utseya.

The Australian opening pair struggled to score freelyagainst the two spinners, and Haddin was even lucky to havegot a reprieve on 16. An Utseya delivery struck the bottom ofthe middle stump but the bails were not disturbed.

The run rate improved when Mpofu came on for his secondspell, with the Australian pair hitting the medium pacerfor two boundaries each. At the end of the batting powerplay,Australia were 53 without loss.

Utseya got his revenge when he trapped Haddin in adramatic fashion. Umpire Asoka de Silva thought that''s notout, but the Decision Review System came to Zimbabwe�s aid.

Watson Ponting then went about rebuilding the inningswith a stand of 79 before DRS again helped the African nationafter the original decision of umpire Richard Kettleboroughhelped the beefy opener.

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