Dravid, Pollock and Shoaib star in narrow win
World XI 281 for 8 (Dravid 66, Pollock 54, Harwood 4-37) beat Victoria 269 for 9 (Hodge 92, Klinger 62, Shoaib 2-29) by 12 runs
Rahul Dravid led the way with a superb 66 and Shaun Pollock, given the honour of captaining the side, chipped in with a terrific 38-ball 54 as the World XI held off a determined challenge from Victoria to post a narrow 12-run victory in a warm-up match at the Junction Oval in Melbourne.
Brad Hodge top-scored with 92, and Michael Klinger chipped in with 62 as Victoria made a bright start in pursuit of 282 for victory. But with the exception of David Hussey, who made 32, none of the other batsmen could make a decisive contribution as the chase floundered. Muttiah Muralitharan ended Hodge's marvellous innings on his way to figures of 2 for 54, and there were two wickets apiece for Shoaib Akhtar - the pick of the bowlers, in a fiery spell of 2 for 29 - and Jacques Kallis as the World XI staved off embarrassment.
That had certainly been on the cards when Cameron White, seen by many as Shane Warne's legspin successor for Australia, bowled Shahid Afridi to end an 18-run cameo, leaving the World XI reeling at 131 for 6. But Dravid added 64 with Chris Gayle and 53 with Pollock as the Victorian bowling was taken apart in the final overs.
There was no hint of the drama to come as Virender Sehwag and Kumar Sangakkara added 63 for the first wicket. But a probing spell from Shane Harwood changed the complexion of the game, with Brian Lara - caught flicking one to square leg - and Kevin Pietersen, caught behind going for a big one, both falling cheaply.
Dravid and Gayle started the riposte, taking the total into the realms of respectability before Rudi Koertzen gave Gayle out stumped off the bowling of White. Fortunately for the world's finest, Pollock provided a devastating sting in the tail. After that, it was the bowlers who proved their mettle, despite Hodge's announcement of intent to the Australian selectors.