Cricket: Final countdown for the World Cup

All the teams are here and warming up before cricket's main event begins next Friday. Nick Harris monitors preparations
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Host county: Glamorgan

THE NS arrived in England on Sunday in buoyant mood, saying they had a good chance of winning. "We are better prepared for this World Cup than the last one and that's partly to do with having a specialist one-day squad," captain Steve Waugh said. "We've been preparing for 18 months and the side is starting to come into its own." The Australians drew their six-match, one-day series against the West Indies in the Caribbean, and then had a week off, in Barbados, before moving on to Cardiff.

Advice from the local tourist board: "I'd take the team to Museum of Welsh Life, which is in a village called St Fagan's outside Cardiff, an open-air place set in about 100 acres. That wouldn't fill a day, so I'd then go to Cardiff Castle. I'd leave out the National Museum and Gallery unless they especially wanted an indoor attraction. At night there's a place called the Oz Bar on St Mary's Street and there's another place in the suburbs call Bar Billabong."

Warm-up games: 8 May v Glamorgan (Cardiff); 10 May v Worcestershire (Worcester); 12 May v Somerset (Taunton)


Host county: Essex

BANGLADESH WERE the first World Cup team to arrive in England, on 15 April, partly because they felt it would take some time to acclimatise to the weather after arriving from temperatures of 38C in Dhaka. Having spent two weeks in Watford they moved to Essex earlier to this week to intensify their net practice. Their recent form has been poor, losing all four of their matches (at home) in a triangular tournament against Kenya and Zimbabwe in March. One of three qualifiers via the 1997 ICC Trophy, they will start the tournament as 1000-1 rank outsiders.

Advice from the local tourist board: "Chelmsford has a bowling alley and leisure centre with skating, swimming and gym wotsit. There's the cathedral, but I'm not sure they'll want to go there. There are some lovely villages on the Chelmsford to Cambridge road, avoiding the M11. There's Morris dancing in Thaxted and saffron in Saffron Waldon."

Warm-up games: 8 May v Essex (Chelmsford); 10 May v Middlesex (Southgate); 12 May v Northants (Northants)


Host county: Kent

THE SQUAD only got together for training earlier this week, a move that prompted critics, including Ian Botham, to say that letting the players take part in county and warm-up matches was likely to risk injuries. Home advantage is being touted an one of England's strengths but the national side failed to win any of the first three World Cups, all staged here. England's most recent one-day outings saw them lose to Pakistan and India in the Sharjah tournament before beating a Pakistan side who were accused by their fans of not trying.

Advice from the local tourist board: "I'd bring the team to Canterbury to the cathedral, and then go Dover Castle or Leeds Castle. If they were interested in gardening, they'd have to visit Sissinghurst. John Aspinall has two wild animal parks in the area. He's famous for going into the cages with his tigers. What else? Winston Churchill's family house at Chartwell and the Dickens museum in Rochester."

Warm-up games: 7 May v Kent (Canterbury); 9 May v Essex (Chelmsford); 11 May v Hampshire (Southampton)


Host county: Leicestershire

THE INDIAN side arrived in England on 24 April, having been together constantly since the Sharjah tournament in April, when they lost in the final to Pakistan. In the Pepsi triangular tournament against Pakistan and Sri Lanka last month, they won two of their three games. The Indians have spent the last two weeks in Leicester, training at Grace Road and acclimatising. They have also won two warm-up matches, against Loughborough University and Leicestershire Second XI.

Advice from the local tourist board: The Leicestershire tourist brochure opens with the words: "In Leicestershire, we are quite modest when it comes to revealing out gems. There are so many of them, and so many surprisingly different ones, that, quite frankly, we wouldn't know where to start." A spokeswoman at the tourist office added cryptically: "There's nothing major as such, but people are very presently surprised by what the county has to offer."

Warm-up games: 7 May v Leics (Leicester); 9 May v Yorkshire (Harrogate); 11 May v Notts (Trent Bridge)


Host county: Somerset

AFTER KENYA Breweries came up with a sponsorship deal in December, 21 players were able to turn professional and the core of the squad have been in training together since. Kenya beat Bangladesh twice in a triangular tournament there in March, but lost three times to Zimbabwe. The team arrived in England on 26 April, and spent a week in Rochdale. They lost an opening friendly against a strong Lancashire Second XI but won three subsequent matches against local league sides. They moved to Taunton on Monday.

Advice from the local tourist board: "If I planned a day for the Kenyans, I'd take them on the railway from Taunton to Minehead, which is the longest privately-owned steam railway in England, then go to the coast and maybe to Exmoor. Then get them a proper cream tea and fit in a visit to the local cider-making farm, Sheppy's, providing they weren't playing that day. If there was time, I'd squeeze in a heritage or pub walk."

Warm-up games: 7 May v Somerset (Taunton); 9 May v Gloucs (Bristol); 11 May v Glamorgan (Cardiff)


Host county: Hampshire

NEW ZEALAND arrived in England at the weekend and coach Steve Rixon said that his team can surprise a few people in the World Cup. "This is perhaps the most open World Cup and it will take a pretty good punter to pick the top six," he said. His side have beaten both India and South Africa in one-day matches recently, but did not find sufficient consistency to win one-day series against either. India drew 2-2 in New Zealand, while South Africa won 3-2 on tour.

Advice from the local tourist board: "It depends on what you're interested in, there's so much to do. In Southampton there are medieval walls and the Titanic Trail, which takes you round a number of memorials and buildings, as well as the Maritime Museum. In Portsmouth there's the dockyard with the Victory, the Mary Rose and the Warrior. Winchester's a very historic city with a cathedral and riverside walks. Then there's the New Forest, and Romsey Abbey, where Mountbatten is buried."

Warm-up games: 8 May v Hants (Southampton); 10 May v Surrey (The Oval); 12 May v Sussex (Arundel)


Host county: Derbyshire

PAKISTAN ARRIVED in England on 27 April and spent a week in Birmingham, where they played two friendlies against local sides. They moved on to Derby on Monday and spent Tuesday and yesterday in the nets. Captain Wasim Akram has been given sweeping powers for the World Cup both on and off the field. Technical coach Richard Pybus will act only as his assistant. The side have been together since winning the Sharjah tournament last month, where they beat India by eight wickets in the final.

Advice from the local tourist board: The brochure says: "Whatever your age or interests, you'll find plenty to put a twinkle in your eye and a spring in your step. The area's unique character will linger long in your memory." A spokeswoman added: "We're near the Peak District and these loads of things of things to do there. In the city there's the art gallery, museum, cathedral and an industrial museum with Rolls-Royce engines."

Warm-up games: 8 May v Derbys (Derby); 10 May v Durham (Riverside); 12 May v Lancs (Old Trafford)


Host county: Sussex

The favourites arrived in England at the weekend, having spent a week in seclusion in their preparation camp, 40 minutes outside Cape Town. After the first practice session in Hove, Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock said they were convinced that the new Dukes ball (to be used in the tournament) is held together by a smaller seam and so the World Cup would not be dominated by seam bowlers. "I think it's aimed at trying to stop the ball from doing too much in the first 15 overs," Pollock said. The week outside Cape Town was spent on pitches designed to mirror English conditions. South Africa's most recent one-day form saw them win a series 3-2 in New Zealand.

Advice from the local tourist board: "In Brighton and Hove we've got the Royal Pavilion. There's also the Sea Life Centre, which is an aquarium, and the Palace Pier, which has amusements. And then there's the British Engineerium, a steam museum with model railways."

Warm-up games: 7 May v Sussex (Hove); 9 May v Kent (Canterbury); 11 May v Middlesex (Southgate)


Host county: Durham

SCOTLAND JOIN Bangladesh and Kenya as the outsiders, not surprisingly, given that the game is amateur north of the border and the team is primarily made up of non-professional players. Scotland have no intention of being whipping boys, however, and spent 11 days at a training camp in Sharjah last month. The side arrived in Durham on Monday and are spending the week in the nets.

Advice from the local tourist board: "Obviously you've got the castle, the cathedral, and the heritage centre, which has a history of the city and brass rubbing. There's also the Museum of Archaeology and the Oriental Museum. In a day I'd go to the castle and cathedral and go for a walk by the river, then go to Beamish, which is an open-air museum of a turn- of-the-century village. In the evening it depends. Either concerts in the cathedral or there are clubs and pubs, such as the Fighting Cocks and the the Market Tavern."

Warm-up games: 8 May v Durham (Riverside); 10 May v Lancs (Old Trafford); 12 May v Yorks (Scarborough)


Host county: Northamptonshire

THE SRI LANKANS arrived in England a fortnight ago and spent 10 days in Leicester, acclimatising to the conditions and playing a couple of low-key matches against local sides before moving on to their base in Northampton on Monday. The side have been together most of the year, but in a triangular tournament with India and Pakistan in April, they won only one of four games (against Pakistan), and in the triangular tournament with England and Australia at the start of the year, won only three from 10.

Advice from the local tourist board: "We've got a number of historic houses, castles and gardens. There's also the indoor carting centre in Northampton. I can't think of anything specifically for Sri Lankans. If you had one day to spend in the county, I'd recommend Lamport Hall and Rockingham Castle, which has been in lots of films. It was used as the set for the TV series By The Sword Divided."

Warm-up games: 7 May v Northants (Northampton); 9 May v Notts (Trent Bridge); 11 May v Leics (Leicester)


Host county: Gloucestershire

MUCH WILL depend on the fitness of Brian Lara, who will rest an injured wrist and not play in the warm-up matches. The West Indies will hope they have left behind the disastrous form that saw them whitewashed 5-0 in a Test series in South Africa earlier this year. The recent six-match one-day series against Australia ended 3-3, and the team arrived in England on Monday with some confidence restored. The West Indies are not among this year's favourites but they are the only side to have won the World Cup twice before, both times in England.

Advice from the local tourist board: "The main attraction would be Bristol Zoo. For a day out I'd advise a cruise on the ferries around the dock, a trip round some of the trendy cafes and bars and then have a look at SS Great Britain, which was the world's first ocean-going iron steamer. Then a picnic at the zoo and a look at the Clifton Suspension Bridge."

Warm-up games: 8 May v Gloucs (Bristol); 10 May v Warwicks (Edgbaston); 12 May v Surrey (The Oval)


Host county: Worcestershire

THE ZIMBABWE side have been together since their hugely successful participation in a triangular tournament against Bangladesh and Kenya in Bangladesh in March. Zimbabwe won all five of their games in Bangladesh, including the final against Kenya. They arrived in England on Saturday and went straight to their base in Worcester, where they have been practising at New Road. Zimbabwe have not made it past the first round in the last four World Cups and have won just three from 25 World Cup games, but hope to inflict one or two upsets in their group games.

Advice from the local tourist board: "What would I do with a party from Zimbabwe for the day? That's a tricky one. There's Worcester Cathedral, or the Royal Worcester Porcelain factory or the Commandry, which is a civil war museum. Maybe go on a river trip on the Severn or to the art gallery. And there are loads of National Trust properties in the county."

Warm-up games: 7 May v Worcs (Worcester); 9 May v Derbys (Derby); 11 May v Warwickshire (Edgbaston)