Both New Zealand and Australia have a point to prove (Preview)

By Abhishek Roy, IANS
Thursday, February 24, 2011

NAGPUR - The earthquake back home in Christchurch is bound to rattle the New Zealand team and at the same time the tragic event should spur them to take on their trans-Tasman rivals Australia in the Cricket World Cup here Friday.

The Group A fixture at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Jamtha has been given the status of the annual Chappell-Hadlee Trophy as mark of respect for 98 victims, who lost their lives in Tuesday’s massive earthquake that struck Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand.

Dayle Hadlee and Ian Chappell will be present at the game to present the trophy to the winning captain.

The stage is set for an exciting contest with both the teams looking to drive home a point to fans back home. If New Zealand is out to win the match for the earthquake victims, four-time champions Australia will try to assert that they are still good enough to dominate the limited-overs cricket.

Vettori believes a World Cup win over Australia will help cheer the distressed country following the earthquake.

“The greatest thing we can do is beat Australia to hopefully help bring a little relief for the people who are going through such a rough time at home. Guys will be thinking about wives and children at home who are dealing with the aftermath. It might be a distraction, it will be a testing time,” he said.

Both the teams have started the World Cup in style. New Zealand defeated Kenya by 10 wickets in their opening game, while Australia got the better of Zimbabwe by 91 runs.

The Black Caps were clinical in their approach against Kenya in Chennai. The fast bowlers shot out the 2003 semi-finalists for 69 runs and then their openers reached the target in eight overs.

Against the four-time champions, New Zealand will need more than what they produced against Kenya.

Head-to-head in the World Cup, Australia dominated New Zealand, winning five and losing two.

In the last two World Cup encounters, New Zealand had to suffer some embarrassing defeats. They lost by 96 runs in 2003 and four years later by a whopping 215 runs.

Australia have the fire power to humiliate New Zealand yet again. They are on a 30-match unbeaten streak in the World Cup after their win against Zimbabwe.

Even Ricky Ponting, who was reprimanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for smashing a TV set in the dressing room in Ahmedabad, is on a 23-match wining streak as captain.

Australia’s pace battery comprising Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Shane Watson can trouble the Black Caps, who have won just three of their last 17 matches.

Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke, who had a horrid run during the Ashes, also showed signs of returning to form with a 58 off 55 deliveries against Zimbabwe. Much will depend on Clarke, if Australia were to handle New Zealands spin attack of captain Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum.

Clarke said he was relishing batting on Indian pitches because he loves facing spin bowling.

“I would be very surprised if we don’t get 20 to 30 overs of spin from any team. It’s an area we’re individually working on. In these conditions, how you play spin and how you bowl spin is going to play a huge part in this tournament,” said Clarke.

The pitch here will favour the batsmen, as nearly 600 runs were scored in England-Netherlands game, but spinners will have something for them as well.

Australias main spinner Jason Kreza has some fond memories of this ground as he took eight wickets on his Test debut here in 2008.

Vettori and McCullum will be New Zealands key weapons as the Australians were clearly uncomfortable against Indian spinners in the warm-up match.

Teams (from):

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Cameron White, Callum Ferguson, David Hussey, Tim Paine, Steven Smith, John Hastings, Mitchell Johnson, Jason Krejza, Brett Lee, Doug Bollinger, Shaun Tait. Coach: Tim Nielsen

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock. Coach: John Wright.

Umpires: Billy Doctrove (West Indies) and Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka)

Third umpire: Asad Rauf (Pakistan)

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)

–Indo-Asian New Service

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