Thursday 19 April 2007 

Kiwis Set To Put Australia Attack Under Pressure

New Zealand plan to put the Australian attack under the sort of pressure on Friday they have faced only twice in the World Cup since losing 3-0 to the Kiwis in the Chappell-Hadlee series this year.

Both teams have already qualified for the semi-finals but there will be no letup in the final Super Eights match at the Grenada National Stadium in the intense rivalry between two countries who compete fiercely at cricket, both rugby codes and netball.

New Zealand thrust aside all inhibitions to record two of the three highest run chases ever in February's one-day series against a side whose attack has only faltered against South Africa and England at the World Cup.

South Africa reached 160 without loss chasing 378 to win the final Group A match and England were 164 for two in the Super Eights with Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen batting superbly.

In both cases Ricky Ponting's men fought their way out of potential trouble with the help of a brilliant run-out from the boundary by Shane Watson against South Africa and a soft dismissal by Bell in the England match.

"It's the same attack we played in New Zealand and we had success there," captain Stephen Fleming told a news conference.

"If we could create that sort of intensity with the bat and put them under pressure with their batting then we're going to have a good game. I'm not sure they've been put under pressure over 100 overs."

ORAM OUT

New Zealand will take the field without all-rounder Jacob Oram, who has a bruised heel but is expected to be fit for next Tuesday's projected semi-final against Sri Lanka in Jamaica.

Coach John Bracewell told a news conference on Thursday that James Franklin could be promoted from number nine to Oram's spot at number six.

Michael Mason, who injured his calf against Bangladesh, is set to return while New Zealand could further strengthen their pace bowling by selecting Mark Gillespie instead of off-spinner Jeetan Patel.

Patel bowled beautifully in last Saturday's victory over South Africa but New Zealand will be taking into consideration the probability of a bouncy pitch in Jamaica for the semis.

Australia, who are scheduled to play South Africa in the second semi-final in St Lucia on Wednesday, will assess the fitness of all-rounder Watson, who has missed the last three second-round games since straining his left calf bowling against Bangladesh on March 31.

Ponting told reporters this week that New Zealand were playing as well as anybody in the tournament after some stunning performances in the Chappell-Hadlee series.

"They played some unbelievable cricket, scored some big runs and chased some big totals down," he said. "There's no doubt at the moment they've got a bit of confidence and when they are actually at full strength, which they are pretty close to now, they are a very competitive side.

"They've been playing pretty much one-day cricket almost 12 months now, they've played hardly any other cricket. They've been focusing wholly and solely on this event."

All-rounder Shane Watson will return to the Australia side after missing the last three games with a calf strain.

Watson, who missed the 2003 World Cup with a back problem and the entire 2006-7 Ashes series with a hamstring injury, strained his left calf while bowling against Bangladesh on March 31.

"He's straight back in the side," captain Ricky Ponting told a news conference on Thursday. "He's done everything that's been asked of him in the last few days.

"He's had quite a few good bowling spells under his belt. He's good and he feels good about himself and he's very excited to be back."

Watson will replace batsman Brad Hodge who makes way for an all-rounder for the second time in the tournament.

Hodge played the opening two first-round matches before he was replaced by Andrew Symonds for the final Group A match against South Africa. Symonds injured his right bicep muscle a tri-series match against England earlier in the year.

Teams:

Australia - Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Michael Hussey, Shane Watson or Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait, Glenn McGrath.

New Zealand (from) - Peter Fulton, Stephen Fleming (captain), Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan, James Franklin, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Shane Bond, Michael Mason, Mark Gillespie, Jeetan Patel.

© Reuters 2007