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March 15, 2007
South Africa will be forced to go into their opening World Cup fixture against Netherlands at Basseterre without any last-minute practice, after persistent drizzle in St Kitts left the team with no option but to call off their training session and return to their hotel.
"It's not ideal and unfortunate," said South Africa's coach, Mickey Arthur, "but we have worked hard in the last few days and the guys are on top of their game so there was no point in just going out and risking a possible injury."
South Africa's preparations were slightly complicated by the late arrival of their chief strike bowler, Makhaya Ntini, who stayed home to attend the birth of his first daughter. He has now landed in St Kitts, but is not expected to take part in tomorrow's match.
But, after a week dominated by the war of words between South Africa and the Australians whom they recently superceded as the world's No. 1 side, Arthur was looking forward to getting on with the competition.
"I think we are comfortable with where we are with our preparation at the moment," said Arthur, who added that his players were not taking the Dutch challenge lightly. "We have actually dug deep on the Netherlands, and have got a lot of information and video analysis. We managed to trade off with Ireland - they gave us info about the Netherlands, and we gave them info on Pakistan."
Arthur added that he was particularly impressed with the top three in the Dutch batting line-up - Darron Reekers, Bas Zuiderent and, in particular, their South African-born Essex allrounder, Ryan ten Doeschate, who has it in him to be one of the stars of the tournament. "ten Doeschate is their best player," said Arthur. "He's a good cricketer and he bowls good areas."
Arthur confirmed that, to neutralise Netherland's two "big units", Reekers and Zuiderent, South Africa would emulate Scotland's strategy of standing their wicketkeeper, Mark Boucher, up to the stumps. "I think it's something that all keepers expect when they come to the West Indies," said Boucher. "When it's subcontinental conditions you have to do that sort of thing."
Boucher added that he was unfazed by the lack of practice his team had got for tomorrow's match. "We've had four years to practice," he shrugged. "Getting the job done is what matters. We've learnt some hard lessons in past World Cups, so we want to be clinical and professional."
"We're a lot better side than them [Netherlands] on paper," added Boucher. "They've got two or three dangerous players, but if we go out there and concentrate on what we can do, we should have no problem in going through."
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