Bowlers hold the key as Australia and Pakistan collide

Published: Monday, February 10, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: Bowlers are likely to call the shots when Australia opens the defence of its World Cup title with a potentially explosive clash against Pakistan on Tuesday. "Both sides have world-class bowlers. You name the variety and it's there in the show," said Australian captain Ricky Ponting ahead of the match at the Wanderers. The Aussies have ruled international cricket as champions in both forms of the game, but their battles against Pakistan generate huge excitement due to the awesome talent on both sides. Pakistan boasts the two leading wicket-takers in Wasim Akram and skipper Waqar Younis, backed by the tear-away Shoaib Akhtar and seasoned off spinner Saqlain Mushtaq.

Australia, on the other hand, has a high-quality new ball attack of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee, followed by one of the great spinners of all time, Shane Warne. "Shoaib is a very dangerous bowler and we know we need to get through those tough spells and make sure he doesn't do much damage," Ponting said. Australia has not forgotten Shoaib's amazing bursts during the Super Challenge series last year, which helped Pakistan win 2-1. Pakistani coach Richard Pybus conceded the better bowling display will win the match. "The most exciting thing about this game is the fact that two of the most aggressive, varied and well-balanced bowling attacks lock horns.

"Look at the variety, there will be swing, seam and spin. It will be important how the batsmen handle the pressure," Pybus said. Ponting hinted of an all-out attack from the outset. "We will see if conditions are overcast - we may open the bowling with Brett Lee," he said. "We are not here to defend the World Cup, we are here to win it and for that we are not worried about two tough games at the start," he said. Australia meets India in its second game on Saturday at Centurion and if it wins both games it will be ensured of a berth in the Super Sixes.

The Wanderers has not been a happy hunting ground for Pakistan, who has lost all its four One-dayers here so far but Pybus hoped the trend would change against Australia. "The batsmen must not only play the fast bowlers well, but also tackle Shane Warne," he said. "He is a class spinner but may be short on bowling after recovering from a shoulder injury." Australia will not risk playing One-day specialist Michael Bevan, who suffered a groin injury last month. "We hoped Bevan would play, but decided he must be fully fit for the other matches," Ponting said. Pakistan also has injury worries with veteran opener Saeed Anwar still doubtful after suffering an elbow injury from a Shoaib delivery at the nets last week. "I have progressed well and also batted in the nets, but could not throw," Anwar said. "But I am very keen to play this important game."

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