CricInfo at World Cup 1999
[The ICC Cricket World Cup - England 1999]

Australia v South Africa, Headingley, 13 June 1999

by Trevor Chesterfield

London - With an injury list slightly longer than normal South Africa's physio Craig Smit has been doing his bit to keep the World Cup favourites aiming to preserve the 'best team' selection policy alive on the eve of tomorrow's final World Cup Super Sixes match against Australia at Headingley in Leeds.

Although the side has already qualified for the semi-finals with a comprehensive win over New Zealand at Edgbaston on Thursday, all is not well in the camp and skipper Hansie Cronje admitted a growing injury list was causing the team management some concern.

Which is not at all surprising after five hard weeks on the road, along with the training camp in Cape Town,. It has left the tournament favourites with injuries to key all-rounder Jacques Kallis, opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs and a bowler whose name the South African captain did not give, but suggestions are that it is the team's top economical bowler Steve Elworthy.

Kallis has a stomach muscle twinge, which could be a hernia, Gibbs has left hamstring worry while Elworthy, who did not bowl out his spell had left the field after his initial six overs cost him 23 runs. Kallis left the field after taking two for 15 in the New Zealand innings of 213 for eight, a score which saw their net run rate worsen from -0.40 to -0.76 and the win over India at Trent Bridge today an important factor, especially as Pakistan joined South Africa in the last four.

What is most likely to happen an assessment of the injury situation before the match at Headingley tomorrow at which point a decision will be made on the fitness of the injured players

A New Zealand win over India at Trent Bridge may be enough to get them though on run rate while Australia are in need of a victory to qualify: a result which may yet see the two sides meet again on Wednesday in the first semi-final. Defeat for Australia, however, would see Zimbabwe, out-played in two Super Six games slip through without having won a game since beating South Africa at Chelmsford.

Cronje felt, no doubt hopefully, that Gibbs' injury worry is more to do with cramps than a strain which could see the problem compounded should they end up top of the Super Sixes and play whoever draws the short straw in a set of complicated permutations which has retrained an interest in the tournament among the general British public.

He would, however, not look for an easy way out for the game against Australia on Sunday. Although the injury problem has not been described as serious, making unnecessary changes to the side was not in the best interests of the side. Resting a player was not an option if the player of the 'best team' selection scenario was fit to take the field. 'We do not want to play around too much at this stage and start throwing games as doing that might bite you back,' he said. 'We will have a look at our side over the next two days and see what happens when we are ready to play Australia.'

He also expressed the view the side would most likely be 'more relaxed' now South Africa had qualified for the semi-finals.

What is surprising is that it has taken so long for a player injury list to finally emerge after the hard grind of playing seven limited-overs matches in 28 days.

Gibbs gave one of his best batting displays of the tournament when he top-scored with 91as South Africa worked over New Zealand bowlers in the Super Six match at Edgbaston. It came after rumblings about top-order flops with Gibbs and Gary Kirsten putting together a batting performance deserving of the team's status as World Cup favourites.

It was just the sort of accomplished century partnership designed to set up another impressive victory and saw the game develop the sort of one-sided contest as any limited-overs match you are likely to come across when the side chasing a big total suffers a couple of early departures. A similar performance against Australia could rob the tournament's of the top drawcards. Such has been the twist in the tale of Zimbabwe's lucky escape with a single point from the rained-off match.

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