Saturday, February 12, 2011

Australia hopes for lively pitch

February 12, 2011

Australia\'s pacemen are hoping to get some life out of a green-looking Bangalore pitch in Sunday\'s opening World Cup warm-up clash with India.

Defending champion Australia has gambled on picking only one specialist spinner in its 15-man squad for the tournament on the subcontinent.

Vice-captain Michael Clarke says his team\'s quicks are licking their lips in anticipation of sending down some bouncers to Sachin Tendulkar and company in the match in which both sides can rotate 15 players.

\"We said to the groundsman yesterday can you leave that grass on it, but I don\'t think it\'s going to be the case,\" Clarke told a press conference in Bangalore on Saturday.

\"Our fast bowlers would love to see it as green as it was (on Friday).\"

It will be anything but a low-key opening for Australia\'s World Cup campaign. Ricky Ponting is still battling a broken finger which has kept him out of action for a month and the skipper\'s form with the bat will be keenly monitored on Sunday by the expected capacity crowd of 40,000 screaming locals, and the 13 rival teams in the tournament which opens on February 19.

Australia\'s pace-heavy attack will also face its first test, with Clarke talking up veteran Brett Lee\'s ability to produce a potent blow of raw pace and subtle variations.

\"Our four fast bowlers will be very important, trying to keep them fit and healthy throughout this (six-week) tournament,\" Clarke said.

Lee and Shaun Tait are set to open the bowling with Mitchell Johnson first-change. The three quicks have only played two one-day internationals together.

Off-spinner Jason Krejza will receive support from part-time spinners Steve Smith and David Hussey.

\"We\'ve also got John Hastings and Shane Watson who change their pace, bowl medium-pace but they\'re very good at change of pace if the wickets are slow,\" Clarke said.

But ultimately Australia need to strike early and late with their quicks in each bowling innings.

\"Brett\'s a wonderful bowler,\" Clarke said.

\"His experience is certainly going to be needed over in these conditions.\"

In Ponting\'s absence, Clarke led Australia to a crucial 6-1 victory in the one-day series against England which ended in Perth a week ago.

\"We can take a lot of confidence out of that, especially after the tough start to the summer we had,\" Clarke said in reference to Australia\'s Ashes humiliation.

Australia\'s title defence must carry on without retired superstars such as Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath who were dominant in the Caribbean in 2007.

\"Our team\'s a lot different to what it was in 2007 but we\'ve been playing some really good one-day cricket of late and I\'m confident if we can continue to play the way we played throughout this summer we can have a really good crack at this tournament,\" Clarke said.

\"We\'ve got a lot of talent in our side (but) the way you win World Cups is when your team plays well together.

\"It\'s not individual brilliance, it\'s the team throughout a long tournament performing consistently.\"

Clarke backed Allan Border Medallist Shane Watson and opening partner Brad Haddin to play key roles like Gilchrist and Hayden did four years ago.

\"Shane is a lot different player to Adam. I think the combination of Watson and Haddin is a very good combination because both players can play a positive role and they bat very well together,\" Clarke said.

Australia\'s other warm-up game is on Tuesday against South Africa, also at Bangalore\'s at M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

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