After South Africa reached 353 from just 40 overs against the Netherlands, Ricky Ponting forecast that any total smaller at tiny Warner Park is certain to be run down. Ponting was talking about the key Group A match versus South Africa on March 24, but first Australia has to play a demoralised Dutch team on Sunday and attempt to match South Africa’s benchmark.
“I think 350 is very much a par score out there, it’s just so small a ground,” the Australia captain said. “The straight boundaries are really small. I mis-hit a few the other day and they landed in the top of the grandstand. If we bat first then we are going to have to make a really good score to be competitive.”
Herschelle Gibbs became the first player in 130 years of international cricket to hit six sixes in one over.
“It doesn’t actually surprise me that much,” he said. “It’s a fairly rare type of feat to happen in a game of cricket, but having played out there the other day, the boundaries are very, very small. “It could have happened then, not very easily as you need to have a fair bit of skill to do that, but the way some of the guys are hitting the ball, it doesn’t surprise me at all.” The last time South Africa and Australia played an ODI, the Proteas chased down Australia’s world-record 434 to win by one wicket in Johannesburg last year.
Australia has since had trouble defending large totals — losing five straight matches to concede its top-ranking to South Africa — but Ponting says every team now faces that risk. “What that game did was alert everyone around the world that big totals can be chased down,” he said of South Africa’s 438. “If you play as well as you can, then any total is achievable. As we saw in that game, as we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks in those games in New Zealand — 340 wasn’t enough over there either. Teams are starting to chase totals that were out of reach three or four years ago.”
Ponting said that Australia was likely to retain the same team that beat Scotland by 203 runs on Wednesday, meaning Andrew Symonds has not yet proved his fitness from his biceps injury. “He’s come along really well since he’s been here,” Ponting said. “He’s improved out of sight. I still think he’s going to be fairly doubtful for the weekend’s game, but if you listen to him he’s ready to go.”
Brad Hodge is expected to retain his position in the middle order, while quicks Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson will miss out with Shaun Tait and Nathan Bracken a settled new-ball combination. “I think we’re pretty close to knowing what our best bowling attack is,” Ponting said.
The Netherlands team is hard to predict after it was beaten by 221 runs on Friday for the third-heaviest defeat at a World Cup, having conceded the fifth-highest total — from 10 overs less than the four others above it.
Netherlands captain Luuk van Troost will surely rest leg-spinner Daan van Bunge, who was the unfortunate bowler on the end of Gibbs’ onslaught, so as to save him from Australia’s big-hitters. “The first 10 overs were pretty good,” Van Troost said of Friday’s bowling effort. “I thought our fielding was pretty good, and Ryan (Ten Doeschate) got a good 60. As for batting, we tried to get 200 at least after the early wickets, but 130-140 is not enough.”