Australia, SA arrive in St Kitts ahead of first games

Australian and South African squads landed on St Kitts late on Monday ahead of scheduled practice sessions on Tuesday to analyse either injured or out-of-form players before their opening Cricket World Cup matches.

Australian allrounder Andrew Symonds will increase the intensity of his training, having recently undergone biceps surgery, in a bid to be fit for Sunday’s game against The Netherlands.

Matthew Hayden is expected to be named to play Scotland on Wednesday in his first match since breaking his toe against New Zealand on February 20 when he made a national one-day record 181 not out.

Shane Watson, who made 55 against England on Friday and 81 versus Zimbabwe while opening for Australia in warm-up games, is likely to drop back down the order from opener to number seven.

But Australia captain Ricky Ponting indicated that Watson’s top-order skills had not gone unnoticed.

“I think his game is best suited to the top of the order,” Ponting said. “Every game when we’ve seen him lately, he’s looked the part there. At the same time, he’s a pretty strong, powerful guy too. So if we can get him in at the right situations with wickets in hand towards the end of our innings, he’s the guy who can bat it out for

us as well.”

Ponting said Hayden had trained well and had set himself to play in the opening Group A game at Warner Park.

Warner Park was the first of the Caribbean’s seven new stadiums to be completed, staging its first one-day international last May and its maiden Test just a month later. But with a maximum capacity of only 10 000, bowlers are sure to be less than enamoured of the short boundaries on all sides of the pitch.

Australian left-arm seamer Nathan Bracken acknowledged the difficulty of taking the new ball under fielding restrictions and accentuated by short boundaries. But he also said the rewards were greater.

“If you get it right and hit the right areas and do a little bit with the ball, then you’re always a chance of getting wickets, especially if they’re trying to take you on,” he said. “There are games when your back is against the wall and you’ve just got to try and change it up and work out the best way to go about it.

“For guys who bowl at 150-160 [kph] it’s probably a little bit different, but for me it’s important to have plenty of variety and change it up to keep the batter guessing so they can’t get in one rhythm.”

One-day cricket holds a unique importance in South Africa—opening bowlers Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini were rested from last month’s deciding third Test against Pakistan due to the World Cup.

Ntini is still to join up with the squad after remaining in South Africa for the birth of his child.

But it is the team’s batting that has Proteas coach Mickey Arthur worried after scores of 192 against Ireland and 199 versus Pakistan in warm-up games.

“My priority is getting [Graeme] Smith, [AB] de Villiers, [Jacques] Kallis and [Herschelle] Gibbs into some sort of form,” he said last week.

Smith, who will captain South Africa in its opening game against The Netherlands on Friday, is looking forward to playing Australia on March 24 after having won 3-2 in their last series a year ago.

“We have had success against Australia in one-day cricket of late. The last series has certainly built up a huge amount of confidence within us,” he said. “I think it’s a game that people watching the tournament are all looking forward to.” - Sapa-AP

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