Australia not to reveal team
PERTH, FEB. 2. Australia, under extreme pressure to beat South Africa by a big margin in tomorrow's crucial last Tri-nations series qualifying clash, today took the unusual step of choosing their team but declining to release it.
``We have picked the team, but we are going to keep it under wraps until tomorrow,'' Australian captain Steve Waugh said as his side limbered up for a sellout game which will decide whether the host nation or New Zealand earn the right to play South Africa in next week's showdown.
`It is pretty simple,'' said Waugh. ``Tactics will play an important part tomorrow, we are looking to get a bonus point, so we want to keep our side to ourselves until the morning. There are 13 players in the squad, so we can go with any combination of them.``
After South Africa beat New Zealand decisively yesterday to make certain of a place in the finals, Australia - reigning World Cup one-day champions - are left with the stern challenge of not only beating the in-form Proteas, but by a margin big enough to give them a bonus point.
South Africa has gained 18 points from its first seven qualifying matches to have a one-point advantage over New Zealand, which has completed its eight preliminary games.
Australia, currently on 13 points, would join New Zealand on 17 if it wins at the Waca ground tomorrow.
But a simple win would not be enough to carry the home country through to the finals, because in the event of teams being level, the match-up between sides determines positions.
New Zealand has a 3-1 advantage over Australia.
Australia's refusal to release its team until the day of the match fired speculation there may be significant changes in a combination who have failed to produce its best form in the contest.
The most likely change appears to be the sacking of long-time opening batsman Mark Waugh and his replacement with prolific left-hander Darren Lehmann, who was added to the Australian squad this week.
In six games in the contest, Mark Waugh has totalled only 92 runs, with a top score of 55 not out, for an average of 18.40.
Another possible, though less likely, change is the dropping of star leg-spinner Shane Warne, who has sometimes laboured in this series for his modest six scalps for an average of 45.17.
Australia's selectors may consider the side's chances will be improved on the fast, bouncy Perth pitch if it plays four specialist pacemen, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Andy Bichel, leaving the balance of 10 overs to be shared by part-time bowlers.
Steve Waugh can send down a few medium-pace overs, while Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn and Lehmann (or Mark Waugh) also have limited bowling claims.
Steve Waugh was just as secretive whether he would bat or bowl on a pitch he described as ``good and flat with plenty of runs.'' ``We have obviously got to play attacking cricket,'' he said. ``We have to work out the best way to get that bonus point.''
``We would like an improved performance tomorrow from all the players. We know we can lift, I know we can play much better. We certainly have to improve on our performances over the previous seven games.''
Waugh conceded there could be what he termed `ramifications' if Australia missed the finals.
``Possibly there may be (changes). It's been a while since we missed the finals. While it would be disappointing, you have to take into consideration what we have achieved over the past couple of years. It has been pretty good.
``We simply have not played well in this series. There is no hiding from that. But you don't replace players unless you think they can improve the side.''
Waugh said he believed the controversial bonus points system needed to have a fair trial before it was condemned. The system was intended to produce attractive cricket, but paradoxically did just the reverse yesterday as New Zealand deliberately staged a go-slow in order to give South Africa an extra point because that boosted the Kiwis' chances of making the final.
Black Caps' captain Stephen Fleming criticised the system. Waugh said: ``I think you have to have a look at it for one year. Obviously, there are different scenarios that pop up, and probably a couple that had not been thought about over the past few days.
``I think it has worked well in domestic cricket and has added some interest to this competition.'' - AFP
Send this article to Friends by