Johannesburg: The West Indies will play hosts South Africa in the opening game of the 2003 World Cup, tournament executive director Ali Bacher announced on Monday. The match will be played at Newlands in Cape Town in February 2003. The opening fixture was originally scheduled for Thursday, February 6, but Bacher said the date may be brought forward by a day or two.
Bacher said the final, originally announced for Wednesday March 19, would now be played either on Saturday March 15 or Sunday March 16. He said this decision was made last week at a meeting of the Global Cricket Corporation, representing television rights holders, the International Cricket Council and the 2003 World Cup policy committee. "It was decided that the final should be played over a weekend to maximise a global television audience," Bacher said. The decision will mean that the tournament will be played in fewer than the 42 days originally scheduled.
"It could be contested over 39 or 40 days," Bacher said. The full fixtures will be announced in Durban on October 27. Bacher said the opening game had been decided after the pools for the tournament were finalised, based on the world One-day rankings at the cut-off date of September 30. South Africa was always going to play in the opening game and the local organising committee decided West Indies was the biggest draw card among the teams in South Africa's group. South Africa, second in the world rankings, is in the same pool as Sri Lanka (third), West Indies (sixth), New Zealand (seventh), Bangladesh, Kenya (joint 10th) and Canada - who finished third in the recent International Cricket Council Trophy tournament in Toronto, Canada.
Australia, the defending champions and current top-ranked team, will play alongside Pakistan, India, England, Zimbabwe, Netherlands and Namibia. The final rankings, based on games from the end of the 1999 World Cup up to matches played up to September 30, were: 1. Australia, 2. South Africa, 3. Sri Lanka, 4. Pakistan, 5. India, 6. West Indies, 7. New Zealand, 8. England, 9. Zimbabwe, 10. Bangladesh and Kenya. Netherlands won the ICC Trophy and Namibia was runners-up to qualify for the World Cup in 12th and 13th places.