ICL: Indian Cricket League


Africans rev themselves up to salvage series

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The scenario of back-to-back one-day matches in the heat and humidity of June here in Chennai is hardly a mouth-watering prospect.

Especially so for the cricketers, fatigued after a marathon World Cup, and not particularly inspired considering the negative publicity surrounding the Afro-Asia Cup — which will see the second match of the three-match series being played today. In a day when both teams decided to take it easy in practice, the focus was on the endurance levels of the players and both captains chose not to dwell on team changes and strategies.

Mahela Jayawardene, the Asian captain, admitted that stress levels are on the increase, given the amount of cricket the Sri Lankans in the side have played over the last few months.

However, he has been having a purple patch with the bat himself and was quick to point out that the general rule didn’t really apply to him. “It’s tough for everyone, no doubt,” Jayawardene told reporters after a net session. “I’m just taking it one game at a time. It’s difficult for me to talk about the rest. If you’re playing well you want to do well all the time and for me personally I’m enjoying it,” he added.

For Justin Kemp, the African captain, the challenge is combating the rustiness facing a few members of his side, particularly for those who returned home after early exits from the World Cup.

“We have a few guys who haven’t played in a while and a bit of rustiness is creeping in,” said Kemp. “It’s hard for many of us coming in after the African winter, and the humidity is on the increase. One way to combat that is to give our bowlers short spells,” he added.

Kemp was quick to admit that his side were the underdogs, but was heartened by the fact that Shaun Pollock’s warrior-like 130 at Bangalore not only saved his side the blushes, but also injected the much-needed adrenaline in a lukewarm tournament. Both teams have everything to play for, in particular the Africa XI, needing to win today’s game to stay alive in the series.

“We know we are the underdogs, especially when up against the best players in Asia. We take pride in ourselves and Shaun Pollock did a really good job making a fist of it in the end. We’ll be looking to push the Asian side the same way we did on Wednesday,” he explained.

The pitch, off limits to the media, evoked plenty of curiosity, and going by the accounts of the captains, is devoid of grass and another run-fest is expected. It would be highly optimistic to expect this sun-baked surface to have any devils in it. The pitch at Bangalore, re-laid by experts from New Zealand, baffled many as it turned to be another belter. Both teams were tight-lipped about the team composition, preferring to chalk out their final XI on the day of the game. There were no injury scares for either team, and the players with niggles and ailments, namely Loots Bosman, AB de Villiers and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are expected to be fit.

Both sides had light batting sessions, with the Asian side getting the better conditions, aided by the evening sea breeze. The Africans decided to soak up what Chennai had to offer, with some trooping off to play golf. One player in the groove for a tee-off was Mark Boucher. Taking the attack to a net bowler bowling slow left armers from over the wicket, he unleashed a ferocious pull and the ball sailed into the tiniest gap in the miniature scoreboard perched on the roof. It had precision written all over it and it’s a pity that there wasn’t a million dollars at stake for that hole-in-one.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, June 9th, 2007 and is filed under Cricket, Afro Asia Cup.

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