Reigning world champs are tipped to win the inaugural Twenty20 cricket tournament

Cricket's undisputed leaders Australia are favourites to win the inaugural Twenty20 World Championships starting tomorrow, but rivals are geared to spring surprises.

Cricket's undisputed leaders Australia are favourites to win the inaugural Twenty20 World Championships starting tomorrow, but rivals are geared to spring surprises.

The shortest version of the game, marked by innovative strokeplay and a flurry of sixes and boundaries, promises to underline the belief that limited-overs cricket is an unpredictable sport.

Australia may have won three successive World Cup titles, but matches restricted to 20-overs-a-side have given other teams confidence that they are not there just to make up the numbers.

"The shorter the game, the more open it becomes because one false move and you could be out of it," said Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene. "It's important to keep a cool head and think on your feet. If you panic, you'll lose the battle. There is no second chance."

Veteran South African all-rounder Shaun Pollock agreed that the Twenty20 game was like a lottery.

"It's a bit of a sprint," he said. "If one-day cricket is an 800-metre race, then Twenty20 is 100 metres.

"If you get off to a bad start you can lose the game."

Ricky Ponting's Australia are fielding the same squad that won the World Cup in April and have been bolstered by the return of pace spearhead Brett Lee, who missed the trip to the Caribbean due to injury.

Ponting will play after delaying his arrival due to a family illness, while Shane Watson was cleared of a sore hamstring.

South Africa and West Indies face-off at the Wanderers tomorrow to kick-start the 27-match, 14-day tournament featuring the nine Test cricket nations along with Zimbabwe, Kenya and Scotland.

The 12 teams have been divided into four groups for the preliminary league, with the top two advancing to the Super Eights round. The final will be played on September 24. - Sapa-AFP

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