Melbourne: Shane Warne has cranked up the mind games ahead of cricket's World Cup, saying the Australians have a psychological hold over tournament fancies South Africa. Australia does not encounter South Africa in pool matches but the defending champions and the hosts are tipped to meet in the semi-finals or final. The wily leg spinner was keen to emphasise the South Africans' short-comings as the Australian team left here on Thursday for Johannesburg. "We've definitely got a psychological hold over South Africa," Warne said on Thursday.
"The results prove that in all the different forms and the major games we've played against them. When it's got to the crunch we've managed to beat them or they've been in a winning situation and we've come back to win." It was a none-too-subtle Warne reminder of Australia's tied 1999 World Cup semi- final against the Proteas in Birmingham, in which a last-over run-out helped the Aussies advance to the final. Australia has beaten South Africa in subsequent home and away Test series, with the memory of the 1999 World Cup an often used Aussie ploy to unsettle the Proteas in tight games.
Opener Matthew Hayden said the 1999 result would work to Australia's advantage rather than South Africa's, despite the fact the hosts would be desperate for revenge. But he warned that Australia should also aim to create a fresh psychological weapon to beat South Africa, and may find it at this World Cup. "The 1999 result is our advantage. We've got up in that situation and used that in the past against them as well," Hayden said.
"But perhaps that's wearing a little bit thin as a strategy for Australia. We need to move on and look to really take them apart in some other way." One-day batting specialist Michael Bevan believes he could be fit for Australia's World Cup opener against Pakistan on February 11 in Johannesburg despite doctors saying he would probably miss the first two games of the tournament. Bevan said his injured groin was responding well to treatment, but admitted he was more likely to return for Australia's second match, against India on February 15.
Australia's batting stocks for the Pakistan game would be boosted immeasurably if Bevan was fit, with Darren Lehmann out of the match, the last of his five-match racial vilification suspension. "The leg's coming along well, so fingers crossed I'll be ready for the first or second game," Bevan said. "Every day it's improving which is a great sign. I think at this stage I'm looking to the India match, but if all goes well, I'd like to think Pakistan's not out of reach as well."