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Asia XI hold the edge in first ODI

It may be shorn of some big names, but the first one-day international in the Afro-Asia Cup between the combined continental teams promises fireworks aplenty at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Wednesday.

The pullout of some leading lights from both teams has weakened Africa more than the host continent who seem to have a clear edge in the best-of-three matches, the last two coming up on June 9 and 10 at Chennai's M A Chidambaram Stadium.

The explosive batting combination of Sanath Jayasuriya, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni would be hard to stop by an African bowling line-up missing Andre Nel, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock (to play only as a batsman).

The match also gives former India skipper Ganguly an opportunity to showcase his worth in the 50-over format after he was "rested" for the preceding one-day series in Bangladesh along with the man he replaced him in the Asia XI -- Sachin Tendulkar

The Kolkata stalwart comes into the match on the back of a century scored in the two-Test series against Bangladesh.

Ganguly has been provided the ideal chance, along with Sehwag who has not fired for a long time, to grab the selectors' attention with a good display in Bangalore and in Chennai ahead of the June 13 team selection for the off-shore matches in Ireland and Scotland.

Ganguly may even be given his slot right up the order along with veteran Jayasuriya, unless Sehwag or Sri Lankan Upul Tharanga is preferred for the spot.

Yuvraj Singh and Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf are available to shore up the middle order along with captain Mahela Jayawardene, and wicketkeeper Dhoni.

Dhoni has the added incentive of grabbing third place in the ICC rankings for ODI batsmen if he produces some solid performances during the three match ODI series.

The Asia new-ball attack also looks potent in the hands of Zaheer Khan, Dilhara Fernando, Mashrafe Mortaza and Mohammad Asif.

The Asians come into the series after some matches between themselves but the African combine faces a bigger problem on this count as none have played any competitive matches after the World Cup.

The African players also arrived in Bangalore late on Monday night, which gives them very little time to adjust to the hot conditions.

They are led by Justin Kemp in the absence of the injured South Africa captain Graeme Smith who is recovering from a knee operation, and look weak in both batting and bowling.

Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini did not arrive in Bangalore to be with his wife, who has recently delivered a baby.

The pitch at the venue has been re-laid with the mixture of clay and fine sand will take time to bind and a virgin pitch is always an unknown factor. The toss could thus play a vital role.

Weather disruptions from rain are still a possibility, but it did not rain on Monday even though there was a canopy of dark clouds in the skyline of the Garden city late in the evening.

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