Cricket: South Africa in prime form

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The Independent Online
SOUTH AFRICA come to their third World Cup tournament with an enviable one-day record. In September they won the first Commonwealth Games gold medal, while in November they beat the West Indies in the mini- World Cup final, overwhelmed them again 6-1 in a home series, and went on to defeat New Zealand 3-2 in an away series.

"The players have started realising they can compete with the best in the world," said Hansie Cronje, who has captained South Africa in 100 limited-overs internationals and has a 76 per cent success rate. "I think we are flying in formation now."

South Africa's strengths lie in their all-rounders: 12 of the 15-member squad will be expected to perform in more than one department. Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener, Jacques Kallis and Steve Elworthy provide probably the best bowling line-up in the tournament.

Close on their heels are the fill-in seamers, Cronje and Herschelle Gibbs, the spinners Nicky Boje and Derek Crookes, and adding to it all is the acrobatic fielding of Jonty Rhodes.

South African batting has also been consistent lately, and their form was clearly displayed in warm-up matches last week when they beat Kent by 107 runs and Middlesex by six wickets.

South Africa look set to include Rhodes, who had been suffering from a sore wrist, in their side, while India will be captained by the former Derbyshire batsman Mohammad Azharuddin.

Thousands of Indian fans have been disappointed in their attempts to watch the match, because the Sussex county ground holds only 6,000. "We have had thousands of phone calls," the English Cricket Board official Francesca Watson said. "We could have sold the seats a dozen times over."

World Cup games involving India were the first to sell out and tickets for the Hove match were all bought 10 months ago. Although Hove and the rest of the South Coast does not have a sizeable Asian population, thousands had hoped to make the trip from London.

It is the first time the ground, a stone's throw from the sea and subject to strong channel winds and sudden mists, has hosted a one-day international.

"It's great publicity for the ground," Watson said. "It's a shame we can't get more people in."