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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 09:06 GMT
World Cup contenders?
By Oliver Brett

Captains Rahul Dravid and Graeme Smith will lock horns
Captains Rahul Dravid and Graeme Smith will lock horns

Can anyone threaten Australia's potentially serene progress to a third successive World Cup in 16 months time?

Perhaps not England, who despite their continued Test success still struggle for consistent results in one-day internationals.

Away from home in particular Michael Vaughan's men are often as meek as mice.

So although not wanting to dismiss England's chances in the West Indies in 2007 perhaps more serious challengers to Australia's crown are two sides who are about to lock horns.

India and South Africa begin the first of five one-day internationals in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

The visitors will be coming off an extraordinary winning run.

When England bowled them out for a feeble 175 in Johannesburg on 30 January, South Africa completed their 12th defeat in 13 matches.

Then the tide turned suddenly and dramatically. In 19 matches since then, Graeme Smith's men have not tasted defeat once, with 16 wins, two rained-off matches and one tie.

Justin Kemp
Kemp has given South Africa's one-day batting more firepower

One of the keys to this has been that a successor to Lance Klusener has finally been found in the shape of Justin Kemp.

He is a no-nonsense bludgeoner of the ball who often hits more sixes than fours, and while he is at the crease an asking rate of 10 an over is never out of reach.

Kemp also bowls decent back-up seam, which has been sharpened up with the improvement of Andre Nel.

Smith and Jacques Kallis are among the most proficient of accumulators in one-day cricket and on the bowling front even if Shaun Pollock has lost some of his edge, Makhaya Ntini has kept his pace and straightened his lines.

India have undergone a similar conversion this year.

When their recently-concluded home series against Sri Lanka began, the tourists were starting as second in the official world rankings for one-day internationals.

But the hosts, bravely ditching skipper Sourav Ganguly throughout - even after he recovered from injury - and selecting a host of younger players - won 6-1.

Rather as happened with Graham Gooch 15 years before him, the captaincy transformed Dravid from a good batsman to a brilliant one.

Irfan Pathan
Irfan Pathan is one of Indian cricket's new bright young things

He ended up with 312 runs, and was only out twice, but even that phenomenal aggregate was topped by the wicket-keeper, Mahendra Dhoni, who included an outrageous unbeaten 183 in his scores.

It wasn't so long ago Dravid was used as the wicket-keeper instead - and a very reluctant one at that.

This new scenario allows him to express himself more as a batsman, while the youthful Dhoni is more than happy to do both.

Despite some cracking wickets on offer, Harbhajan Singh was so miserly he was almost Dickensian - barely conceding 3.5 runs per over.

The new-ball pairing Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan shared 22 wickets, and all in all things look pretty as a picture under the watchful gaze of new coach Greg Chappell.

South Africa will surely provide testing opposition, however, and some heaving crowds at Madras, Calcutta and Mumbai could be in for some seriously good cricket.


SEE ALSO
India unchanged for South Africa
13 Nov 05 |  Cricket
South Africa in India 2005
09 Sep 05 |  Future tour dates


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