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South Africa seek home redemption

South Africa's tournament-opening match is against the West Indies, the side that first derailed their campaign by winning the first game of the 2003 World Cup in Cape Town.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2007 19:31 IST

On the last occasion South Africa hosted a world cricket event the host country crashed out ignominiously.

Home team captain Graeme Smith will be hoping history doesn't repeat itself in the inaugural ICC Twenty20 World Championship starting at the Wanderers Stadium next Tuesday.

By coincidence, South Africa's tournament-opening match is against the West Indies, the side that first derailed the Proteas' campaign by winning the first game of the 2003 World Cup at Newlands in Cape Town.

It was because of South Africa's failure to advance beyond the group stage in 2003 that Shaun Pollock was fired as captain and Smith took over at the age of 22.

Apart from Smith's aggressive leadership, he will have a key role as a hard-hitting left-handed opening batsman.

He is the highest scorer in the short history of 20-overs internationals, with 259 runs hammered off only 188 balls at an average of 86.33. He has hit three half-centuries in five matches, more than anyone else in the world.

South Africa, though, have won only two of their five matches, even though four of the games have been played at the Wanderers, South Africa's largest stadium.

South Africa's other group opponents are Bangladesh, who gained an upset win over the Proteas in the 50-overs World Cup in the West Indies earlier this year.

Smith has warned that although Twenty20 is traditionally a batsmen's game, conditions could be tricky.

"I'm unsure whether batsmen are going to totally dominate. No one really knows what conditions are going to be like at this time of year," he said.

September is early for big cricket to be played in South Africa and despite intensive efforts, particularly at Newlands where there has been heavy winter rain; pitches may give seam bowlers some help.

South Africa go into the tournament without star all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who was controversially left out of what is generally a young side.

Wicketkeeper Mark Boucher was fined 60 percent of his tournament match fees for criticising his friend Kallis' omission.

There was also controversy about the racial make-up of the side.

It's understood that the side originally chosen included only five black players but officials insisted that a minimum of seven be picked - the same number as were in the squad for the World Cup in the West Indies.

A likely casualty of the "quota" was reliable all-rounder Andrew Hall, who last week notified Cricket South Africa that he was quitting international cricket.

Despite the upheavals, South Africa should have a competitive side although the withdrawal through injury of big-hitting Loots Bosman could spike their guns.

Other quick scorers include Herschelle Gibbs, Justin Kemp, Shaun Pollock, Boucher and left-hander Albie Morkel, an all-rounder picked ahead of Kallis.

As preparation for the Twenty20, South Africa sent most of the squad to Zimbabwe for three 50-over internationals last month.

First Published: Sep 07, 2007 18:00 IST