Cricket World Cup: South Africa sweating on Kallis injury

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The Independent Online
THEY MISSED him - badly - against Australia last Sunday and there is a danger that South Africa will have to do without the all-rounder Jacques Kallis in the re-match, when the two sides meet in the second semi-final at Edgbaston today. Kallis has a strain to the muscles of his lower abdomen, not far from the site of his appendectomy of a couple of years ago.

After a 15-minute bowling session with Kallis running in at about 60 per cent of full throttle, South Africa's physiotherapist, Craig Smith, said: "Jacques is still in some degree of pain, although the condition has been improving."

Their coach, Bob Woolmer, admitted: "At the moment Jacques is 50-50, but he is desperate to play. We don't want to rush him into it though."

The problem is that if they pick Kallis for his batting and he aggravates the injury then, if they beat Australia, it could put rule him out for the final.

There is little doubt where the buck lies. Smith said: "The decision to play Kallis lies in the selectors' hands. I have told them that there is a risk he could break down. If Jacques does not play then we will have to make alternative plans."

Those plans will involve deciding who will be the fifth bowler. The duties were shared by the captain, Hansie Cronje, and slow left-armer Nicky Boje on Sunday and 79 runs came off their allocation of 10 overs when Steve Waugh was in full flow.

Woolmer said: "Hansie felt that he was not putting the ball in the right place, but he can bowl better than that. On other days he has taken five wickets and he has more than 100 wickets in one day internationals. You talk about a fifth bowler, how many have 100 wickets? We have two others who have three figures, Allan Donald on 200 and Shaun Pollock on 107 and Lance Klusener is closing in fast with 90 to date."

If South Africa are being gored on the horns of a dilemma, Australia were bullish about the forthcoming tie. "If we play well I believe we can win," claimed their captain, Steve Waugh, after a two-hour training session yesterday. "South Africa will fight back, but we are confident. They won the Commonwealth Games title and we won last Sunday, so tomorrow's game is the decider."

Woolmer did concede there was an element of psychological advantage accruing from last weekend's meeting, but he was annoyed at suggestions that Waugh had labelled South Africa as chokers. "When you call us chokers you have to go back pre-1997," Woolmer said. "This is 1999, the choking thing is all played out. Why should we be called chokers when we have an 80 per cent record? You only have to look at the facts."

The facts do add credence to Woolmer's claims. The overall one-day record between the two teams stands at 19-19 and under Cronje's leadership South Africa are 11-8 in front, although on neutral grounds Australia have a 5-3 advantage.

Waugh insisted he had not used the word chokers and the reference was now two years old. "I said they did not play well under pressure," Waugh explained. "But if remarks like that upset them then they have problems. They've just got to concentrate on their cricket."

Whatever the outcome the atmosphere is likely to be as explosive as last time. Cronje said: "We seem to play our best cricket against Australia. Psychologically they have a bit of an edge, but the stakes are high and there will be a lot of drama. It is going to be one hell of a contest. I think it will be better than the first match."

And Woolmer added: "I would expect a similarly intense atmosphere. I would not say that it is going to be war, but it will be close - that's war without the u-g-h."

Let battle commence.