February 19, 2015

Australia coach Darren Lehmann is saying what a lot of people often think during the Cricket World Cup. It needs to be shortened.

Lehmann's squad has a seven-day gap between its opening victory over England and its next Pool A match against Bangladesh in Brisbane on Saturday, cyclonic winds and torrential rain permitting. Australia's third group match - against co-host New Zealand in Auckland - isn't until Feb. 28.

''I think we can condense the tournament a little bit to be honest,'' Lehmann told a Melbourne radio station. ''A week in between is a long time.''

The logistics of conducting a World Cup in 14 cities across two countries make scheduling matches tricky.

In the only match Thursday, for instance, Zimbabwe played for the second time in four days and beat United Arab Emirates - the last of the 14 teams to play its first match - by four wickets. Zimbabwe, coming off a loss to South Africa, reached 286-6 with 12 balls to spare in reply to the UAE's 285-7.

Shaiman Anwar scored 67 and 43-year-old Khurram Khan scored 45 for the Emirates team after being sent in to bat at Nelson, New Zealand. After slipping to 167-5, Zimbabwe rallied on Sean Williams' unbeaten 76.

Off-spinner Mohammad Tauqir, who became the World Cup's oldest captain at 43, took 2-51 before Williams hit three consecutive fours for the winning runs.

Lehmann's point about the schedule is well-taken. The World Cup group phase involves 42 matches in a month, followed by quarterfinals and semifinals before the March 29 final. All up, more than seven weeks.

Lehmann is by no means the first to question the length of the tournament. Then International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed said during the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean that seven weeks was too long.

''We listen to criticism, and there has been a lot of it ... so we'll look to make it shorter,'' Speed said then. ''We'll seek to reduce this 47-day World Cup (including warmup games) by seven or 10 days, and hopefully we'll get it down to somewhere between five and six weeks next time.''

''Next time'' has happened twice since, still with no shortening of the schedule. Although there's plans to cut the number of competing teams from 14 to 10 at the 2019 World Cup.

While New Zealand prepared to take on England on Friday at Wellington, Australia's match on Saturday against Bangladesh - which is coming off a win over Afghanistan in Canberra on Wednesday - remains in doubt due to a cyclone off the Queensland state coast.

Cyclone Marcia was expected to hit the coast overnight Thursday about 600 kilometers (400 miles) north of Brisbane - just over 48 hours before the Gabba match is scheduled to begin - and forecasters predicted more than 200 millimeters (eight inches) of rain in the area over the next several days.

The weather was much more pleasant Thursday in New Zealand's capital of Wellington - mostly sunny and a high of 23 Celsius (73 Fahrenheit) - where England will attempt to get over its opening 111-run loss to Australia.

New Zealand had a 98-run win over Sri Lanka in the tournament opener and followed up with a three-wicket win over Scotland on Tuesday.

The match comes with England captain Eoin Morgan seriously out of form, making four ducks in his last five innings.

''I'd love you to explain it to me because I don't understand it,'' Morgan said of his slump. ''You don't look any further than what's in front of you and I've done that but it hasn't worked. I believe it will work and when it does hopefully I can cash in on it and either make a match-winning performance.''

New Zealand will take an unchanged lineup into the match at Wellington's Regional Stadium, where it has won nine of its last 11 ODIs.

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