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Coach says Aussies ready for title defence

Veteran batsman Michael Hussey is one of three players who have to prove their fitness for the World Cup. (FILE)


Australia cricket coach Tim Nielsen says his team is in good shape for their World Cup title defence 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-run win over England in their final one-day international in Perth on Sunday.
It completed an emphatic 6-1 win over the tourists and Nielsen said the taxing seven-match series had been ideal for his team ahead of the World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
England were left to rue a lengthy injury list at the end of a series they believed was too long and Australia have fitness concerns of their own, but Nielsen said he was happy with how his team was placed.
“We’ve had an excellent preparation,” he said after the win in Perth on Sunday.
“The most pleasing thing about the seven games is we have had contributions at different times from pretty well everyone in the squad.
“Everyone has got the feeling their game is in pretty good order, everyone is pretty clear with their roles. We are going in in pretty good shape.”
While Nielsen’s confidence is up, there is still considerable doubt over the final make-up of Australia’s 15-man squad.
Captain Ricky Ponting (finger), veteran batsman Mike Hussey (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 also sidelined by a hamstring strain.
Nielsen admitted the injuries were an unwelcome distraction and said some crucial decisions on player fitness would be made over the next 48 hours.
But he was upbeat about Ponting’s prospects, after the skipper came through a batting session in Sydney on Friday.
“He seems to be getting better every day and is at least where 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 the temptation to take injured players into the six-week tournament.
“We can’t afford to just have 11 or 12 players in our first couple of games. We need to have some coverage,” he said.
Australia, still the number one ranked side in ODIs despite their slide in Test cricket, go into the tournament on a 23-match winning streak in World Cup matches, having been undefeated at the last two tournaments.