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Poor pitch halts SA practice

Johannesburg: South Africa’s preparations for their World Cup group B match against New Zealand were seriously undermined on Friday when poor net surfaces at the Wanderers forced several batsmen to halt practice.

Jacques Kallis and Andrew Hall both suffered worrying knocks as the batsmen struggled to cope with unpredictable bounce, several deliveries spitting and lifting off a good length.

South Africa’s team management was concerned enough to consider an alternative practice venue for their final session on Saturday.

“It isn’t ideal when guys need to walk out of the nets, it’s a pity, but we did get some work done,” coach Eric Simons said.

“From a bowling perspective, it was alright but, from a batter’s perspecive, it was not easy to get your confidence and guys like Gary (Kirsten) and Herschelle (Gibbs) who have confidence can easily lose it. I think everyone got hit at least once.

“I’ve spoken to our manager to see if we can go to (local university) RAU, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”

One consolation for the South Africans was that team physiotherapist Shane Jabaar reported no serious injury concerns at the end of the session.

South Africa lost their tournament opener to West Indies in Cape Town last Sunday before hammering Kenya by ten wickets Wednesday. It was their first practice since they heard the news that talisman Jonty Rhodes would take no further part in the World Cup after breaking a bone in his right hand during the Kenya match.

Rhodes announced his retirement from international cricket before going to see his team mates at the nets for the last time. He left shortly before the session ended.

“It’s one of those things that particularly doesn’t deserve to happen to a guy like Jonty,” said Simons. “People have talked about him as the heartbeat of our team and in many ways he is — I think he’d be the heartbeat of any group he’s in. He’s the kind of personality we’ll miss in the team. He’s always buzzing and it’s a major blow for him personally and for us as a team.”

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