Champs intend to send a strong message as they start defence
Defending champions Australia intend to send a powerful message to their rivals when they open their World Cup defence against minnows Scotland here on Wednesday.Updated: Mar 14, 2007, 03:16 IST
Defending champions Australia intend to send a powerful message to their rivals when they open their World Cup defence against minnows Scotland here on Wednesday.
Plagued by injuries to key players, the two-time winners lost five matches in a row last month, resulting in them being deposed from the number one position by South Africa.
But the Australians bounced back impressively last week by winning both of their warm-up matches, including a clinical five-wicket win over arch-rivals England. Captain Ricky Ponting stressed his team was in the Caribbean to win. "We are here to win, whoever we play. We want to win every we play, and that's the way we train, and prepare," said Ponting.
Opener Matthew Hayden (toe) and middle-order batsman Michael Clarke (hip) appear to have fully recovered from their injuries, while late arrival Adam Gilchrist showed early form in the warm-up match against England, with an explosive 72.
In what should be a one-sided contest on Wednesday, Australia can still afford to miss explosive all-rounder Andrew Symonds who is facing a race against time to recover from arm surgery for the crucial Group A match against South Africa on March 24.
Ponting is also confident his team can overcome bowling problems where Shaun Tait will be looked upon to supply the raw pace in the absence of the injured Brett Lee. "The other day Tait stepped up in the practice game against England and took 4-33 and with the way he bowls, these conditions will be able to help him out at different times so hopefully, he can step into Brett's shoes," Ponting said.
"This will be a good opportunity for Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark to as well to put their hands up in Brett's absence. I think the beauty of our squad at the moment is our flexibility."
Scotland, who featured in the 1999 World Cup, earned their second chance to play on the biggest stage by winning the ICC Trophy in Ireland in 2005. Their coach, Peter Drinnen, realises the enormity of the task at hand, but is not ruling out an upset. “If we can take early wickets, which I'm sure we can with the way we've been bowling, we might set a few nerves jangling and cause the likes of Australia and South Africa a few problems,” he said. “Anything can happen in a one-day match and if we get it together, we are going to be very dangerous even against Australia,” said the former Queensland wicketkeeper.
Scotland have plenty of experience, with 37-year-old all-rounder Dougie Brown, who played nine ODIs for England, and his Warwickshire teammate Navdeep Poonia, in their ranks. Paceman John Blain and all-rounder Gavin Hamilton, another former England player, are others who can prove handy.