Nathan Astle: Aussies there for the taking

The Black Caps have their best chance than ever this afternoon to beat their transtasman rivals on cricket's biggest stage.

Despite their recent poor run at home the Black Caps have a more settled lineup than Australia, which is certainly a rarity.

The Aussies are still in a rebuilding phase and are there for the taking. It's not the Australian team of a few years ago when they were the best team in the world by a long way. They've come back to the pack now.

Sure they still have some world class players, and have only lost to New Zealand twice at the World Cup, but the Black Caps should have all the confidence in the world to beat them. will have livescoring of the Black Caps clash against Australia from 5pm.

Looking at the starting XI it's a tough decision but if Kyle Mills is fit he has to be picked ahead of Hamish Bennett despite the young Cantabrian's solid performance in the opening thrashing of Kenya.

You've got to go with what you think is your best XI and in my view at this stage that includes Mills. He's got a proven track record at this level and he's done well against Australia in the past.

Bennett did bowl very well against Kenya but that was just Kenya.

I'm a firm believer that you should earn your spot in the starting XI with form or with when someone else in the team is out of form.

To be frank the Black Caps' opening win against Kenya was probably a waste of time. No one got much of a hit out which was what they really needed. But a win's a win and you've still got to beat those minnow teams to advance.

As a player you do want more of a challenge just so you can have a decent run around and decent bat. In saying that sometimes when you play the minnows, you just want to get them out of the way and avoid an upset - which Netherlands almost pulled off against England. It was a good hit out but I'm sure it was a lot closer than England wanted it to be.

To be honest I don't think there is a place for the minnow nations at the World Cup. It's tough because you want to open up the game of cricket to the rest of the world but if you're going to bring the minnows in you've got to have some sort of standard where they can at least compete with the other teams.

But that's noty my biggest problem with the World Cup. Organisers still haven't sorted out the schedule issues that occurred four years ago.

There are no real big games for two to three weeks and it drags on which is a shame. Players are twiddling their thumbs waiting for the quarterfinals to start which is never a good thing and makes these early games pointless.

You might get some momentum going with a solid performance but then you have a week between that and your next game.

There is only so much training you can do and so many balls you can hit and sometimes when you spend a lot of time in the nets you can actually get yourself out.

It sounds strange but because you're probably not training the things you should, you get a little bit loose and a little bit tired.

If you only have a couple of days you're more aware of what you should be doing in the nets; short, sharp and you're out of there.

- Former Black Cap Nathan Astle was talking to nzherald sports editor Cameron McMillan

- NZ Herald

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