| Chris Cairns is yet to recover from hamstring injury
Faridabad: New Zealand must put Australia under pressure on Wednesday to end a run of three straight defeats against the world champions, captain Stephen Fleming said a day before the match.
Both teams go into their second game of the triangular tournament also involving India handicapped by injuries. New Zealand will miss Chris Cairns and Australia Michael Kasprowicz.
Cairns suffered a hamstring strain in his team’s abandoned opening game against India, while Kasprowicz has a hip problem to add to Australia’s seam bowling problems. Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee are missing the tournament because of injury.
Australia are also under pressure after their 37-run defeat against India on Sunday but Fleming knows how tough they are to beat following his team’s experience at the World Cup.
Australia were reduced to 84 for seven on a slow Port Elizabeth pitch before Andy Bichel lashed 64 and Brett Lee ripped through the Black Caps’ batting order to snatch a 96-run win.
And smarting under Sunday’s defeat, Australia will go all out to ensure a return to winning ways against their trans-Tasman rivals. Ricky Ponting’s men would be like wounded lions after their 37-run defeat to the hosts in their first match. The New Zealanders can only expect a ferocious backlash.
The Black Caps, who surprised many with their show in the Tests, are trying to peak at the right time. Also, they have been in India for much longer than the Aussies and have more or less acclimatised to the conditions.
The India-New Zealand series opener was abandoned due to rain in Chennai on Thursday. While the rest of the team opted to forego the optional practice session on Monday, opener Lou Vincent drove to the venue from Delhi all alone. Despite reaching the ground late due to traffic snarls, Vincent had a rigorous net session well past sunset with the help of local cricketers.
“Chalo, chalo, aur ek geind!”— Vincent’s accented Hindi, as he coaxed the bowlers for a few more toss-ups, said all about his commitment. But what should be of concern to Vincent’s mates is the lack of match practice for the specialist one-day cricketers who arrived during the Mohali Test.
In the Aussie camp, Ponting and coach John Buchanan have their hands full, after the Indian mauling. The second string bowling attack left much to be desired as Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman clobbered them all over. Ponting would be hoping for a more disciplined performance from his bowlers.
With most of their frontline bowlers unavailable for some reason or the other, the bowling was always going to be the Australians’ weak link, but what was quite surprising was the batting collapse in Gwalior.
Australia were dealt another blow when Kasprowicz was ruled out. Ponting confirmed that the seamer will not play against New Zealand but said his availability for the rest of the matches would be known after an assessment of his fitness in the next couple of days.
“It is unfortunate. We have not asked for a replacement yet. We will wait for a couple of days to see how bad it is,” Ponting said after nets at the Palam cricket ground in New Delhi. The skipper said the replacement would not necessarily be a fast bowler. “It could be a quickie or a spinner.”
Seemingly on course for victory at 132 for no loss while chasing a competitive 284, Australia lost four quick wickets for nine runs in the space of 22 balls, and eventually lost the match.
Incidentally, Ponting did say his side was “a little bit” under pressure after the thrashing at the hands of India. He said the manner in which the team crashed to defeat was disappointing. “Our bowling and fielding was good. Our batters got off to a great start but our middle order played some pretty ordinary cricket.”
Australia would retain the same XII that lost to India but a decision on the final XI would be made after a look at the wicket. Ponting said his side could not afford to take the New Zealanders lightly as they had played well against them in recent past. Though history generally favours teams batting second at the Nahar Singh Stadium, Ponting said he had not really given a thought to what he would opt for if he won the toss. “If the wicket looks like holding up, we will bat second,” Ponting said, expecting the conditions to be similar to those in Gwalior.
Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Jimmy Maher, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Bevan, Michael Clarke, Ian Harvey, Brad Hogg, Andy Bichel, Brad Williams, Nathan Bracken.
New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Lou Vincent, Craig Mcmillan, Chris Cairns, Chris Harris, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Brendon McCullum, Kyle Mills, Chris Nevin, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Ian Butler, Paul Hitchcock.
Umpires: David Shepherd (Eng), S. Venkatraghavan (Ind). Third umpire: I.V. Shivaram (Ind).
Hours of play: 9 am to 12.30 pm, 1.15 pm to 4.45 pm.