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Player concerns for Aussies

Australia are facing the prospect of starting their Twenty20 World Championship campaign with a bare minimum of 11 players as niggling injuries continue to haunt Ricky Ponting's side.

Ponting himself is in doubt for Australia's opening match against Zimbabwe in Cape Town on Wednesday, with the skipper scheduled to arrive in South Africa Monday night (midnight AEST), less than 48 hours before the game.

With him on the flight from Sydney is allrounder Shane Watson, who is unlikely to figure in Australia's two group matches against Zimbabwe and England as he recovers from a hamstring concern.

Michael Clarke is also in serious doubt with a lower abdominal strain, while opener Matthew Hayden has been struggling with back spasms which would likely have forced him out of Australia's practice match with South Africa on Sunday had they had a full-strength squad available.

Hayden played in the eight-wicket loss at Centurion, but batted down at No.7 to allow as much time as possible to get his back right.

Chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch will join the 15-man squad in Cape Town on Tuesday, but his task for the first match could well be made redundant should Ponting, Watson, Clarke and Hayden all fail to come up for the clash.

"It's normal early season stuff at the moment," said coach Tim Nielsen after Australia's return to the playing field following a four month break.

"The fact that we have had some competitive hit-outs have been beneficial from a skill point of view, but physically at the moment it's taken a bit of time to get up and going."

Hayden pulled up sore after Australia's four-wicket win over New Zealand on Saturday, but in a promising sign didn't show too much discomfort when he finally arrived at the crease or fielded at Centurion.

"He'd been flat on his back overnight so (physio) Alex Kountouris had done a great job to get him up and going," Nielsen said.

"If it had of been a competitive game I'm sure he would have opened the batting ... but being a practice match, if Punter (Ponting) and Watto had of been here and ready to go we wouldn't even have thought about playing Haydos as a precaution."

After resting Clarke from both warm-up matches, Australia will likely give the batsman until the team arrives in Cape Town on Tuesday before assessing his fitness for Zimbabwe.

"He's getting better, all the signs are that he's improving, and again it's just a management thing and seeing how he goes," Nielsen said.

"We're hopeful he'll be playing during the week, whether it's Wednesday or Friday (against England) we don't know at the moment, but we're hoping he'll play.

"If we didn't think he would play we would be looking to get him home and fixed, but while he's a chance to play we'll do everything we can to get him right."

After delaying his arrival because of a health issue with his wife, Ponting will have a busy time over the next two days. He will practically head straight from Johannesburg airport to the ICC Awards, and then fly out with the team to Cape Town early Tuesday.

"I'm expecting he'll be pretty keen to play so we've got to make sure we do the right thing with him off the plane to give him the best chance," Nielsen said.

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source - theage.com.au

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