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Australia wary of 20-overs cup

Cricket Australia has reacted guardedly to reports that England, the birthplace of 20-overs cricket, is supportive of adding a Twenty20 World Cup competition to an already crowded international schedule.

Cricket Australia has reacted guardedly to reports that England, the birthplace of 20-overs cricket, is supportive of adding a Twenty20 World Cup competition to an already crowded international schedule.

Cricket Australia communications manager Peter Young said Australia would adopt a "suck-it-and-see-it" approach to the 20-overs game, still uncertain of whether it warranted a place on the international calendar.

With today's inaugural Twenty20 international in Australia already sold out at the Gabba, it would appear the fans, at least, have spoken with their feet.

But Young said that if that sell-out crowd did not include newcomers to cricket, Twenty20 international cricket would be deemed a "failure".

Young said that while Twenty20 cricket had been "great" for the English county game, Cricket Australia was not sure how that translated internationally.

"England have certainly not raised the (Twenty20 World Cup) issue with us, and from a Cricket Australia point of view, we're staying open-minded," Young said. "The international calendar is already quite full. Test cricket is enjoying a resurgence and one-day cricket is a success internationally. We're conscious of that and don't want to upset that. We're still dipping our toes in the water with Twenty20 cricket at this stage."

Twenty20 cricket has proved a phenomenal success at domestic level in England, South Africa and Australia and has attracted massive crowds in its few international incarnations.

The Australians played to a full house at Auckland's Eden Park last year in the inaugural Twenty20 international, during which the New Zealand players humoured all with afro hairstyles, handlebar moustaches and retro uniforms.

Australia, though, was hardly laughing after its 20-over defeat to England, which preceded a highly embarrassing one-day loss to Bangladesh and, eventually, an unsuccessful Ashes series.

The South Africans, led by Graeme Smith, are expected to present the home side with similarly stiff competition today.

Smith captained Somerset to the Twenty20 Cup title in England last year.

Cricket Australia yesterday reinforced its willingness to risk offending age-old supporters to find new ones at a time the No. 1 summer sport is under increased pressure from soccer.

Young said research had shown cricket was losing its cultural importance in an asset-rich, time-poor society that has more immigrant Australians who are naturally interested in soccer. "If all the people are those who come to Test matches then essentially we would have failed," Young said. "We need to attract new fans."

Women, children and migrants are targeted as key demographic groups where Twenty20 needs to "break down the mystery" of cricket and overcome the time constraints that are a major inhibitor to Test and one-day viewing.

Australian vice-captain Mike Hussey backed Cricket Australia's suck-it-and-see attitude but its future is not expected to live and die by its Australian international debut.

Australia has already scheduled a Twenty20 match against England during next season's Ashes tour.

Hussey and South African coach Mickey Arthur agree Twenty20 internationals loom as perfect introductions to one-day series, so long as they do not take the focus away from the 50-over game.

"I think every one-day series should start with a Twenty20 game but I'd hate to see it take the place of one-day cricket," Arthur said.

Australia will sport a new strip and nicknames on players' backs.

Jacques Kallis has been rested from the match after battling an elbow injury during the 2-0 Test series defeat, but Arthur confirmed he was fit and would play through the tri-series.

Seam duo Andre Nel (foot), Charl Langeveldt and all-rounder Justin Kemp (shoulder) have also been rested but are expected to play a practice match in Brisbane on Friday, while suspected chucker Johan Botha will play.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Mike Hussey, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Brad Haddin, James Hopes, Nathan Bracken, Mitchell Johnson, Mick Lewis, Stuart Clark (12th man to be named).

South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Herschelle Gibbs, Boeta Dippenaar, Ashwell Prince, Jacques Rudolph, Mark Boucher, Andrew Hall, Johan Botha, Garnett Kruger, Shaun Pollock, Monde Zondeki, Charl Langeveldt (likely 12th man).

source - theage.com.au
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