Cape Town: The West Indies will provide a stern test for hosts South Africa in the first match of the 2003 World Cup under the Newlands floodlights on Sunday. "I think the pressure's going to be on the South African side," said West Indian captain Carl Hooper. Hooper, who took over as captain of the Caribbean outfit for their home series against South Africa in the West Indies two seasons ago, believes his team has turned the corner after more than a decade of disappointing results.
Since losing a thrilling match against South Africa in the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka in September, when the contest was decided off the last ball, the West Indies has won away One-day series in India and Bangladesh. "The last time we played South Africa, in all fairness we should have won," said Hooper. Not surprisingly, South African captain Shaun Pollock disagreed. "The West Indians are a quality outfit but so are we," said Pollock.
"They have been playing on low, slow wickets on the sub-continent so they will have to adapt to South African conditions." The final preparations of both teams were disrupted by unseasonal rain in Cape Town on Friday but fine weather is expected on Sunday for the game, which gets underway at 1430 local time (1230GMT). A key factor will be the condition of the pitch and outfield. A 32-ton stage was placed over the pitch area for Saturday's opening ceremony and the outfield, which was to be used by a cast of 5000 during the ceremony, was covered with agricultural matting, which enables the grass to stay healthy.
"If there is no more rain, the field should be fine," said groundsman Christo Erasmus, who predicted a surface that would be fair to both teams. Erasmus believes he has been able to eliminate what used to be a Newlands syndrome, which favoured the team batting first in day-night matches. "The pitch used to freshen up in the evening but I have managed to make it a fairer contest by taking off most of the grass. It has made the pitch a little slower but it means conditions stay very similar in both innings."