Vol. 5 Num 994 Sun. March 18, 2007  

ICC Cricket World Cup West Indies 2007
One eye on Proteas

Defending champions Australia are already looking beyond the formality of dismissing the Nether-lands on Sun-day as the countdown begins to their World Cup clash against South Africa.

Captain Ricky Ponting has one eye on the crucial match against the world number one Proteas on March 24 which will decide who tops Group A.

"We are ready for our next two matches and have planned well for South Africa which I expect to be a real good contest," said Ponting after his team saw South Africa crush the Netherlands by 221 runs at Warner Park on Friday.

South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs became the first man in one-day cricket history to hit six sixes in an over when he smashed five straight ones and one towards mid-wicket off hapless leg-break bowler Daan van Bunge.

Gibbs finished with a 40-ball 72, Jacques Kallis hit an unbeaten 128, while Mark Boucher hit the fastest World Cup fifty off just 21 deliveries during his quickfire 75 not out as South Africa mustered 353-3 in a shortened 40-over match.

But Ponting, who himself smashed five sixes in his 113 in Australia's 334-6 in a 203-run win over Scotland on Wednesday, was not surprised at the run riot.

"It doesn't actually surprise me that much. Gibbs's was a fairly rare feat but having played out there the other day it's a pretty small ground and it could have happened, not easily, but the way some of the players are hitting the ball these days it doesn't surprise me at all."

Ponting predicted a high-scoring match against South Africa.

"I think 350 is very much a par score out there, it's just so small a ground. The straight boundaries are really small. I mis-hit a few the other day to the top of the grandstand.

"If we bat first (against South Africa) then we are going to have to make a really good score to be competitive," said Ponting whose side has failed to defend big totals, including a world record score of 434 against South Africa last year.

"That last match was a fitting end to a great series. I expect the game to be a really good contest and we have special plans for all of their guys."

"They are number-one ranked one-day team in the world now, so they are doing lots of things right. We've got a good rivalry with South Africa in Test and one-day cricket," said Ponting whose team lost their world number one spot to Greame Smith's side last month.

Australia are expected to be unchanged on Sunday after all-rounder Andrew Symonds, recovering from arm surgery, was ruled out.

The Netherlands, playing their third World Cup since 1996, will be hard pressed to pick up pieces after their South African rout.

"It will be tough but we must cheer up and face Australia in the next game," said Dutch skipper Luke van Troost.

"We were doing well until the tenth over of the South African match but from their we lost our way. I would be happy if we could repeat our first ten over performance and bat better."

Australia beat the Netherlands in their only previous World Cup meeting by 75 runs in South Africa in 2003.

(from): Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Stuart Clark.

NETHERLANDS (from): Luuk van Troost (capt), Peter Borren, Daan van Bunge, Ryan ten Doeschate, Mark Jonkman, Muhammad Kashif, Alexei Kervezee, Tim de Leede, Adeel Raja, Darron Reekers, Edgar Schiferli, Jeroen Smits, Billy Stelling, Eric Szwarczynski, Bas Zuiderent.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor and Tony Hill.