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Fleming not worried about juicy pitches

Five successive defeats to Australia are playing on the mind of the Kiwi skipper, overshadowing his concern of an early start on a dew-laden track.

india Updated: Nov 08, 2003 16:56 IST
Sandeep Nakai (AP)
Sandeep Nakai (AP)

Five successive defeats to Australia are playing on the mind of New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming ahead of their crucial limited-over tri-series league contest Sunday, overshadowing his concern of an early start on a dew-laden track.

"We've got to do better than the Aussies in what's once again a must-win situation for us," said Fleming, whose team has squandered winning opportunities during a string of losses to the world champion over the past two years.

Australia has a 60-25 lead in a total of 88 one-day encounters against the Kiwis. Three of these matches failed to produce a result.

Australia, which has already secured its passage into the tri-series final, outplayed New Zealand by eight wickets at Faridabad in the first round of league games last week.

The Black Caps came close to stopping Australia's winning sequence in Monday's encounter in Pune, but three crucial dropped catches allowed Ricky Ponting's side to prevail by two wickets on the penultimate delivery.

"We weren't up to it the last time, but will be looking for a superior show," said Fleming.

The Kiwi captain said his team would have to overcome such hiccups and give a sustained performance to stop the Aussies from winning all three league games against New Zealand in the current tri-series.

Australia is through to the Nov. 18 title match after securing 18 points from four matches, leaving New Zealand and host India to contest the second spot in the tri-series final.

Both India and New Zealand have nine points from four matches. New Zealand reignited its hopes by defeating India by four wickets on Thursday, prompting Fleming to say a win against Australia on Sunday should spur the Kiwis toward the final.

Fleming has been critical of the tri-series schedule, in which all of host India's six league games are day-night matches. After its loss to Australia on a seaming pitch in Pune, where his top order perished cheaply, Fleming said the draw was loaded in favor of India. He said the Kiwis had to make adjustments on dew-laden tracks when games began early morning.

On Saturday, Fleming played down the importance of winning the toss in yet another early start in northeastern Guwahati, where early dusk makes it necessary to start Sunday's contest at 8:30 a.m. local time (0300 GMT).

Fleming said he was not going to blame early starts for his team's woes, emphasizing that New Zealand's batsmen ought to know how to handle such situations.

"An early start is something we've got to deal with, and deal positively," Fleming said. "There will be pressure on the side batting first.

"Winning the toss will be a definite advantage, but the other team must strive to do better," he said.

New Zealand's team management has been observing the fitness of star all-rounder Chris Cairns and Paul Hitchcock, who were sidelined by injuries from its last match, but had extensive nets for two days.

The Aussies, who flew into Guwahati on Saturday afternoon, are contemplating resting wicketkeeper-opener Adam Gilchrist and paceman Brad Williams. This could provide second-choice 'keeper Jimmy Maher and veteran pacer Michael Kasprowicz their first outing in the tri-series.

Kasprowicz has not played a one-day international for nearly five years, but last played in a Test match in India two years ago.

The Kiwis will be relieved not to see Williams coming at them with the new ball. He twice ran through the New Zealand top order to pick up successive Man of the Match awards.

Aussie skipper Ponting and coach John Buchanan made a quick trip to the ground in the afternoon for a look at the track.

"We'll be seeking to maintain our winning spree. I'm quite satisfied at the way we've shaped on this tour," Ponting said before being escorted back to his car by the gun-toting security staff.

First Published: Nov 08, 2003 14:24 IST