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South Africa face tense opener

South Africa were reminded of a painful home ambush four years ago as they prepared to open the inaugural Twenty20 world championships against the West Indies here on Tuesday.

Graeme Smith's home team is a front-runner along with the world Test and one-day champions Australia to win the 12-nation competition in the shortest version of the game.

But the South Africans will be wary of the West Indies who stunned them in the opening match of the 2003 World Cup in Cape Town, a defeat that cost the hosts a place in the second round.

West Indian star Marlon Samuels did not hesitate to remind the South Africans of that day and hoped his team will pull off a similar win at the Wanderers on Tuesday.

"Hope we can do something like that again," said Samuels. "They (South Africa) are at home and have the advantage, but we are playing very good Twenty20 cricket."

South Africa, who have not won the 50-overs-a-side World Cup in five attempts despite being a formidable side, are determined to bag the Twenty20 world title in front of their own fans.

Smith's men showed they mean business when they stunned Australia by eight wickets in a practice match on Sunday, a win that key batsman Abraham de Villiers said was a real morale-booster.

"Victory is always important, especially against Australia because they're a well-drilled side," said de Villiers, who smashed 65 off 35 balls as South Africa chased down a target of 180 with five deliveries to spare.

"It wasn't just a warm-up game. It's a bit of a psychological advantage to beat the Aussies."

Australia's new coach Tim Nielsen admitted the swinging ball had caught the team "off guard", but the result only underlined the belief that Twenty20 cricket is an unpredictable sport.

In other practice games, Pakistan beat World Cup finalists Sri Lanka by five wickets and New Zealand stumbled to a 35-run defeat at the hands of the West Indies.

"Any team can win this one," said India's newly-appointed captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. "If you thought 50-over games were unpredictable, this one is a lottery.

"It all depends on how well a team a plays over the three hours. One bad over can be the difference between winning and losing."

South Africa's de Villiers said a way out to master the Twenty20 game was to chase a target rather than set one.

"It's not easy to find your feet and know if the target you've set is big enough if you bat first," the aggressive batsman said.

"Batting second it's much easier to pace your innings. It's a matter of keeping wickets in hand and making sure that you reach your targets after every five overs.

"If you bat first you have to sum up the conditions and adjust. That takes time and you don't have time in this format of the game."

In other words, winning the toss can be crucial. It's a game of chance.

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