Belfast Telegraph

Cricket World Cup: Botha set for comeback, but Johnston faces race against time for Windies battle

There was good and worrying news yesterday as Ireland prepared for their must-win fourth match at the ICC World Cup against West Indies on Friday.

The good news is that Andre Botha is expected to be fit after recovering from the groin strain which kept him out of Ireland’s last two matches, but Trent Johnston is a major doubt because of a badly bruised right knee and he is not expected to resume training until Thursday at the earliest.

However, it was Niall O’Brien who was inadvertently dragged into the spotlight when his bats failed to arrive at the team hotel in Bangalore before the squad left for the airport in mid-morning to get their flight to Chandigarh, where they will spend the next five nights.

The protocol at major tournaments is for the players’ kit and luggage to be transported separately from the ground to the hotel, but on Sunday night, after the defeat to India, one bag was missing, the one containing O’Brien’s five Gray Nicholls bats and another he had received as a gift from India’s Suresh Raina, one of the four squad players not involved in Sunday’s action.

O’Brien’s sponsor has agreed to replace the bats, but the one which the Northamptonshire player has used in this World Cup — in which he has scored 113 runs — has been his No. 1 choice for the last eight months.

“Every bat has a different feel and you get used to a particular bat and you never want to change it, especially if you are scoring consistent runs,” said O’Brien.

“I only had Raina’s bat in my possession for about 10 minutes when I put it in the bag. Let’s hope they eventually turn up.”

It was Niall’s brother, Kevin, who was the centre of attention at the airport yesterday, besieged by autograph hunters and Indians wanting their picture taken with the player who hit the fastest century in World Cup history to help beat England last week.

Meanwhile, Ireland physio Kieran O’Reilly gave an update on the injury list which could yet deal a serious blow to the team’s chances of reaching the quarter finals. They will have to win two of their last three games against West Indies, the strong South Africa side and the Netherlands.

O’Reilly indicated that Johnston will need a lot of rest if he is to be ready for the next match.

“His knee was immobilised to fly and he is a doubt for the West Indies game, but we will take a decision on that in three days time. He is on anti-inflammatory pain killers and he won’t be doing anything until Thursday. Another 48 hours will give us a good idea of his chances of facing the West Indies,” he said last night.

There was much more encouraging news on Botha.

“He is very good, a big improvement from yesterday. We will reassess him tomorrow but he should have no problem being ready for Friday,” added O’Reilly.

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Canada posted their first win of the 2011 World Cup, beating Kenya by five wickets in their Group A clash in Delhi yesterday.

The North American side bowled Kenya out for 198, with Henry Osinde taking four for 26.

Belfast Telegraph

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