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Twenty20 not serious? Don't be silly

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In spite of the silly uniforms, sillier facial hair and both camps' admission they are largely clueless about the concept, Australia and New Zealand enter today's historic Twenty20 match in Auckland with earnest intent.

In spite of the silly uniforms, sillier facial hair and both camps' admission they are largely clueless about the concept, Australia and New Zealand enter today's historic Twenty20 match in Auckland with earnest intent.

The first 20-overs-a-side game played between two international teams is expected to draw more than 20,000 fans to Eden Park - the city's spiritual home of rugby union - this evening, with most keen to glimpse cricket's brave new world.

Only a handful of Ricky Ponting's Australians have experience of the smash-and-run game either at English county level or for Australia A, while development of the three-hour version is equally embryonic on the other side of the Tasman.

Adding to the sense of novelty is the 1980s-style "retro" uniforms to be worn by both teams and the fact that several New Zealand players have heeded a call from supporters to sport the bushy sideburns and moustaches from that era.

But both teams bristled at suggestions this was merely a carnival event, given the Australians have barely had time to stretch their legs since arriving in Auckland yesterday afternoon to start their six-week tour.

"We'll be treating it very seriously," Ponting said yesterday.

"It's the tour opener as far as we're concerned and a few of the guys in our side haven't played in a Twenty20 match."

New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris was even more emphatic as to the significance of the fixture, even though only two of his team-mates - captain Stephen Fleming and one-day specialist Andre Adams - have played Twenty20 at a meaningful level.

Styris said that even though the Black Caps would more closely resemble throwbacks in their beige body shirts and beards, they viewed the match as a chance to gain an early ascendancy over Australia before the five-match one-day series began on Saturday.

The one-day series will be followed by Test matches in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

"We want to get the momentum up and running against these guys from the first time we confront them (and today) is being taken seriously for that reason," Styris said.

"We want to win the one-day series and then move that on to the Test series, and the best way to do that is to get on top early and not let them settle into our conditions."

New Zealand's preparation for today's match was as novel as the concept itself, which restricts bowlers to a maximum of four overs each and in which totals in excess of 200 are common.

Their big-hitters - Chris Cairns, Craig McMillan, Brendon McCullum and Adams - took turns to face up to a baseball-style pitcher in the centre of Eden Park's adjoining training ground and rehearsed their six-hitting skills.

Ball after ball peppered the grandstand and the few foolhardy onlookers stationed at deep long-on. Cairns eventually managed to smash one through the middle of a large glass window amid cheering from his team-mates.

Ponting conceded he has yet to devise a game strategy and is also unsure of the line-up he will employ, although he is considering using Andrew Symonds as Adam Gilchrist's opening partner.

Ponting indicated he would also consider playing tour rookies Michael Hussey and James Hopes, given they experienced Twenty20 cricket for Australia A against Pakistan in Adelaide last month.

But he added the entire 14-man touring party was keen to trial the game and said the Australians were determined to field their best XI.

New Zealand will be without left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori, who will be rested after a recent back injury, but have named former All Blacks star Jeff Wilson, who last represented his country at cricket against Allan Border's team 12 years ago. Salve helices pariah inure paleoserology evangelistic?
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