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POONIA'S BACK TO HIS BEST.

Byline: By JONATHAN COATES

WITH four ducks, a sublime half-century and a bout of violent sickness behind him, Navdeep Poonia's international cricket baptism has been nothing if not eventful.

Under the watchful eye of Dougie Brown, Warwickshire's young batsman has racked up six one-day internationals for Scotland this winter.

Poonia is targeting an opener's berth at the World Cup, where the Scots begin their campaign against champions Australia on March 14.

The powerful right-hander had a rough start with two ducks in Bangladesh and another against Kenya in the first match of a triangular series in Mombasa.

The 20-year-old hit back with a terrific 67 off 66 balls in the win against Canada - only to go down with a stomach bug that devastated the Scots squad.

Poonia was a shadow of his usual self in a seven-run loss to Kenya, forced to leave the field every five overs and out first ball when he batted down the order.

"It has been a rollercoaster ride," he admitted. "I started off by getting two ducks in Bangladesh, then I got another one in the first game here and got a bit nervous.

Aggressive

"When I went out to bat against Canada I was looking for that first run and didn't know where it was going to come from, to be honest.

"Thankfully, I got a short long hop and just dabbed it down for a single, then got a couple of boundaries and didn't look back.

"I'm quite an aggressive player and I try to be positive, and I had gone into my shell a bit in previous games.

"The night before that game we had a team talk and decided we had to be confident - and it worked."

Poonia would have had two more that day if not for a mango tree that stands inside the ground at Mombasa Sports Club.

"I went for a six that would have easily cleared the ground if it hadn't flicked a branch of the tree," he said. "I hit and thought 'six' but the umpire signalled four."

Next stop on this great voyage is Nairobi, where the six-nation World Cricket League begins tomorrow and the Scots do battle with Celtic rivals Ireland on Tuesday. The top two qualify for the Twenty20 World Championships.

"The tour is going really well and the lads have welcomed me into the group," said Poonia.

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HITTING FORM: Navdeep Poonia has found his feet at last for Scotland
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 28, 2007
Words:410
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