SPORT

Australia looks to set things right

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming awaits his turn at the nets at the Nehar Singh Stadium, Faridabad, on Tuesday. (Right) Australian captain Ricky Ponting gets ready for his stint at the nets on the eve of the tri-series match. — Photos: V. V. Krishnan

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming awaits his turn at the nets at the Nehar Singh Stadium, Faridabad, on Tuesday. (Right) Australian captain Ricky Ponting gets ready for his stint at the nets on the eve of the tri-series match. — Photos: V. V. Krishnan  

FARIDABAD OCT. 28. The journey to this industrial town is tortuous and time consuming. It is the ultimate driving test, what with man and mammals fighting for space on the highway, which is perpetually dug up for repairs for miles. The New Zealand team had a taste of the rustic side of the tour when driving to the Nahar Singh Stadium this morning, while the Australians experienced it in modern Delhi when they reported late for practice due to a traffic mess on way to the Palam ground.

Cricket at the Nahar Singh Stadium on Wednesday could have much more intrigue in store for the teams. The newly-laid pitch held the attention of all, as did the curator, Vijay Yadav, former India Test wicketkeeper. In his new role, he claims to have prepared a decent track, a racy outfield — an ideal cricketing atmosphere. "I've worked to the best of my abilities. I hope you get a good game of cricket," said Yadav, who was given a raw deal by the selectors — State, zonal and National.

The pitch at Gwalior in the last mach was described as `not bad' by India skipper Rahul Dravid while Australia captain Ricky Ponting spoke of the slowness and low bounce in the second half. The toss thus became a vital factor. The scenario could be the same in tomorrow's match when the dew factor could become significant in the morning session.

The Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming confessed the `moisture' in the pitch could become decisive. The team was relaxed and keen to continue the good work of the Test series when it dominated the home outfit.

The last time the teams met the Australians were reduced to 80 for seven in the World Cup before wriggling out. "You know what kind of pressure you need to apply to win against them. Playing Australia is always difficult. You've to really be in top shape. The Aussies have dominated us mostly but in the last couple of years we've done pretty well. We're looking forward to furthering that," said Fleming.

He made another interesting observation. "People back home judge our performance against Australia as the benchmark. If we can perform against Australia it gives us lot of credibility."

The Australians, on the other hand, have admitted to being under slight pressure following the defeat at Gwalior.

"We didn't get off to a great start to the series. There would be pressure on us. We know the Kiwis are a good side and have always done well against us. We know what to expect," said Ponting.

Injury woes

The Kiwis suffered a blow when Chris Cairns was ruled out on account of a hamstring injury while the Australians were forced to leave out Michael Kasprowicz, who has a strained hip muscle, an injury which might send him packing home. Kyle Mills stands a good chance to play. So does Ian Butler.

The teams would do well to beat the traffic on the day of the match. Sounds odd but true. It would be embarrassing if the match is delayed because of non-arrival of one or both the teams.The behaviour of the pitch obviously happens to be the most important factor for everyone connected with the match. The behaviour of the spectators would mean much more. The place may not be known for its cricket culture but the onus would be on the organisers to ensure there are no irritating stoppages because of movements in front or behind the sightscreen. Both the teams had made their displeasure known at Gwalior when a total of 18 minutes were lost due to securitymen and spectators holding up play.

A repeat here would not speak well for the venue, which would be on test on many fronts. But the task begins with a smooth passage for the teams from Delhi's Taj Palace to the Nahar Singh Stadium.

The teams (from):

Australia: Ricky Ponting (Captain), Mathew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Bevan, Ian Harvey, Andy Bichel, Nathan Bracken, Brad Williams, Brad Hogg, Michael Clarke and Jimmy Maher.

New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (Captain), Lou Vincent, Chris Niven, Craig McMillan, Chris Harris, Scott Styris, Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Daryl Tuffey, Paul Hitchcock, Kyle Mills, Daniel Vettori and Ian Butler.

Umpires: Messrs David Shepherd and S. Venkataraghavan; Third umpire: I. Sivaram; Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

Hours of play: 9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.; 1.15 p.m. onwards.

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