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Neighbourhood battle

Spin could hold the key as Aussies face familiar foes New Zealand, Abhijeet Kulkarni writes.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2011 02:36 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

The sight of New Zealand off spinner Dipak Patel marking his run up in the very second over of their 1992 World Cup opener against Australia was a shock treatment that worked wonderfully well for the Kiwis in that campaign.

Opening the bowling with a spinner has since then become a regular phenomenon but the vulnerability of the Australian openers against slow bowlers has continued. Zimbabwe proved that in Australia's opening encounter of this edition of the World Cup and New Zealand would definitely look to exploit the situation through a certain Nathan McCullum.

The 30-year-old off spinner was first given the responsibility against India in Jaipur last year and responded with a spell of 37 for no wicket in nine overs and has done the job twice thereafter. He practiced with the new ball for a considerable time in the nets on Thursday and New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori admitted that employing a spinner at the start was a realistic possibility.

"There is a chance. We have done that before and we can do it here depending on the conditions," said Vettori, who also bowled with the new ball for some time in the nets.

The Kiwis, who played a practice game at this venue, are aware that the wicket here has very little to offer for the pacers and the spin combination of Vettori and McCullum will be their best bet to end the defending champion's unbeaten run of 24 matches in the tournament dating back to 1999.

Australian openers managed just 28 runs from the first 10 overs against Zimbabwe with Ray Price and off spinner Prosper Utseya keeping them under tight leash. "Like any other game being played in the sub continent, our game plan will be to simply bowl straight and cut down the pace," Vettori said.

Australian skipper Ricky Ponting admitted that his team's performance against spinners had not been up to the mark and said he won't be surprised even if both Vettori and McCullum bowl in the first 10 overs. "We had a team meeting for an hour today and discussed at length the ways to tackle such a possibility," said Ponting.