More mismatch than rematch
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Start time 9:30 am, 07:30 GMT
In theory this is the rematch of the most recent Champions Trophy final. In reality, it looms as a serious mismatch. In 2006 in Mumbai, an Australian side featuring Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Damien Martyn, Brad Hogg and Andrew Symonds polished off a disappointing Brian Lara-led West Indies outfit to take the title. Flash forward three years and Australia, the defending champions, have lost much of their aura and sit second on the ODI rankings. They are by no means favourites to hold the title but they should kick off their tournament with victory over a mish-mash of second-string West Indians who were beaten at home by Bangladesh but did give Pakistan a scare this week.
Australia have just beaten England 6-1, so their form is impressive. However, they have only just arrived in South Africa and without any warm-up matches they must resist the temptation to treat this game as a centre-wicket practice. A resounding win is required to give them momentum ahead of their matches against India and Pakistan - the teams are competing for two semi-finals spots. Weariness could be a factor and Ricky Ponting said this week the squad featured a lot of tired bodies after a four-month tour of England. Australia are also without their one-day specialist Nathan Bracken, although there is plenty of pace-bowling backup in the squad.
For this replacement West Indies side it's business as usual - they enter the game as severe underdogs with no expectations on their shoulders. Gavin Tonge, who starred against Pakistan, forms part of a handy attack along with Darren Sammy and, if he plays, Kemar Roach. But the batting is fragile and West Indies' best hope could be to bowl first and hope for early-morning swing and seam to upset Australia's top order.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia - LWWWW
West Indies - LLLLNR
Australia have lost their highest-ranked one-day international bowler, Bracken, who has been sent home due to an ongoing knee problem. It means a reshuffling of the attack, which will be led by Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson. All the bowlers were given a run during the series in England and Peter Siddle appears the likely immediate beneficiary of Bracken's absence. Australia will also be without their vice-captain Michael Clarke, who was suffering from back pain after the flight from England to South Africa. He missed Thursday's practice but the coach Tim Nielsen said his condition was "improving". His spot could go to the allrounder James Hopes.
"Since arriving here and having had to travel from Durham down to London and London to Johannesburg, he's stiffened up quite considerably," Nielsen said. "At the moment it's a day-by-day proposition for us and he's improving, but with the whole tournament in mind we're taking a conservative approach, so he won't play tomorrow."
Australia (possible): 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Callum Ferguson, 6 Cameron White, 7 James Hopes, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Nathan Hauritz, 11 Peter Siddle.
Neither the fast bowler Kemar Roach nor the batsman Kieran Powell played in the loss to Pakistan and they could strengthen the West Indies line-up. The real team news, of course, has been well documented before the tournament began. Not much was expected of the side and they put in a commendable effort in the opening game. But regardless of which XI they put out on the field, they should be far too weak for Australia.
West Indies (possible): 1 Dale Richards, 2 Andre Fletcher, 3 Devon Smith, 4 Travis Dowlin, 5 Floyd Reifer (capt), 6 David Bernard, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Chadwick Walton (wk), 9 Nikita Miller, 10 Tino Best, 11 Gavin Tonge.
Watch out for...
Having sat out of the entire Ashes series, Brett Lee had a point to prove in the one-dayers in England. What he confirmed was that he remains a fearsome force in one-day cricket with his fast, accurate bowling and mastery of the yorker. It was enough to rattle England and if he finds his rhythm, the weakened West Indies top order will have a major challenge on their hands.
West Indies have found a quality bowler of their own in Tonge, whose 4 for 25 against Pakistan gave his team a sniff in a low-scoring match. West Indies' batting does not look threatening, so their best chance may be if Australia's batsmen don't give the Caribbean attack due respect. If that is the case, Tonge has the ability to pounce.
Pitch and conditions
The Wanderers was the venue of the low-scoring Pakistan-West Indies match, and the early-morning start will add to the assistance for the fast bowlers. The forecast for Saturday is sunny and 28 degrees.
Stats and trivia
- The 15 men in the West Indies squad between them have played 130 one-day internationals; Australia's 14 remaining players have a combined 1094 ODI caps
- Australia's recent form at the Wanderers is good. They beat South Africa there in a one-day international in April, having also triumphed in the Test match there earlier in the tour
- Australia and West Indies met in the final of the previous Champions Trophy in Mumbai three years ago. It is likely only four players from that match will take part in this game: Ricky Ponting, Lee, Michael Hussey and Shane Watson
"West Indies will get the respect they deserve from us. There is nothing we can do about the contractual dispute."
"Hopefully [the pitch] will be behaving the same way when we meet Australia. I will put the ball on the same spot and let the pitch do the same."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo