Coach says Aussies ready for title defence

Perth, Feb 7 (AFP) Australia cricket coach Tim Nielsensays his team is in good shape for their World Cup titledefence despite injury doubts over several key players.

The Australians, aiming for a fourth straight title,wound up their preparation for the tournament with a 57-runwin over England in their final one-day international in Perthyesterday.

It completed an emphatic 6-1 win over the tourists andNielsen said the taxing seven-match series had been ideal forhis team ahead of the World Cup in India, Sri Lanka andBangladesh.

England were left to rue a lengthy injury list at the endof a series they believed was too long and Australia havefitness concerns of their own, but Nielsen said he was happywith how his team was placed.

"We''ve had an excellent preparation," he said after thewin in Perth on Sunday.

"The most pleasing thing about the seven games is we havehad contributions at different times from pretty well everyonein the squad.

"Everyone has got the feeling their game is in prettygood order, everyone is pretty clear with their roles. We aregoing in in pretty good shape."

While Nielsen''s confidence is up, there is stillconsiderable doubt over the final make-up of Australia''s15-man squad.

Captain Ricky Ponting (finger), veteran batsman MikeHussey (hamstring) and first-choice spinner Nathan Hauritz(shoulder) all have to prove their fitness for the World Cup,which starts on February 19, while reserve Shaun Marsh is alsosidelined by a hamstring strain.

Nielsen admitted the injuries were an unwelcomedistraction and said some crucial decisions on player fitnesswould be made over the next 48 hours.

But he was upbeat about Ponting''s prospects, after theskipper came through a batting session in Sydney on Friday.

"He seems to be getting better every day and is at leastwhere we would like him to be, which is great," Nielsen said.

"But he hasn''t played any competitive cricket in a while,so that in itself is a risk."

Nielsen said Australia needed to be wary of thetemptation to take injured players into the six-weektournament.

"We can''t afford to just have 11 or 12 players in ourfirst couple of games. We need to have some coverage," hesaid.

Australia, still the number one ranked side in ODIsdespite their slide in Test cricket, go into the tournament ona 23-match winning streak in World Cup matches, having beenundefeated at the last two tournaments. (AFP) AH

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