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It's Party Time

THEY are calling it the 'party stand', sections of each World Cup ground set up for some Caribbean culture, cricket and 'jerk' chicken. The West Indies are waiting ... arms, homes and beachside bars wide open. They're waiting for the world's best cricketers to descend on their stunning archipelago and waiting to see if Ricky Ponting can lead his all-conquering Australian team to a historic three World Cup victories in a row.

The stage and the stadiums are set, and Australia are also looking to complete their own two-way hat-trick. Three World Cups in a row ... and another major title to add to the Champions Trophy and that antique urn, already secured in fine style this summer. Ponting, having led from the front in India, during the 5-0 Ashes whitewash, and then the net session that was the Commonwealth Bank Series, against England at least, is in rare form as a batsman, a captain, and a 32-year-old in a younger man's body in the field. Heading into his fourth World Cup and second as captain, Ponting specialises in producing big scores in pivotal matches according to Ian Chappell, while Darren Lehmann and Damien Fleming have profiled what looks to be Australia's most well-balanced one-day side to head to a World Cup.

We've featured all 16 teams, from Bangladesh to the Black Caps, as well as some of the colourful characters heading to the Caribbean including 300-pound left-arm spinner Dwayne Leverock who'll play for the Gus Logie-coached Bermudans. From some of the unknowns to the biggest names in the game, they're all here, as well as a look back on the eight previous World Cups, starting with the 60-over tournament in England in 1975 to Australia's unbeaten run at the 2003 tournament in South Africa.

To complete Inside Cricket's last issue before footy takes over, we've thrown in a complete 2006-07 Ashes wrap with all the moments, memories and stats of the most convincing Australian victory in 86 years. Enjoy the World Cup, be sure to get some indoor net practice in over winter and double up on Ponting and Wallaby captain George Gregan for dual World Cup success in 2007.

A tribute to four modern-day legends

SHANE Warne finished his career on 1001 international wickets, Damien Martyn took just 14. Justin Langer cherished every one of his 105 Tests and 7696 runs while Glenn McGrath would've loved to have contributed more than his 641 runs at 7.37. There are a plethora of numbers and statistics to celebrate the careers of Messrs Warne, Martyn, Langer and McGrath, but there's more than just figures to the stories that have shaped the careers of these modern-day legends.

The historic 2006-07 Ashes whitewash over England signalled the end of an era in Australian cricket. The farewells for these four men were fitting; representative of the professionals and personalities involved. SK Warne's retirement press conference was broadcast live around the nation before being chaired off his beloved MCG a week later. DR Martyn slipped out the back door, with a typical 'less is more' approach, linking up with the team in the SCG dressing room for one last night of celebration. GD McGrath had his last say in Sydney, some 440km from his hometown of Narromine, but where he forged a remarkable international career. And JL Langer, how apt to see him peppered with red rocks just one last time, fending off Steve Harmison's 'best' spell of the summer and then watching on from the non-striker's end as good mate Matthew Hayden finished England off with a six and a single . . . five nil, thanks for coming.

Through the work of former editors Norman Tasker, Darren Hadland, Martin Lenehan, Angus Fontaine, Christian Ryan, and Tony Harper, Inside Cricket, published as Inside Edge from 1992 to 2002, has featured the careers of Warne, Martyn, Langer and McGrath since the blond leg-spinner took 1-150 at the SCG against India. This Souvenir Edition of Inside Cricket is a celebration of four memorable Australian Test and one-day players, and a look back at their careers through contributions in more than 120 issues of the magazine.

Former Test captains Richie Benaud, Bob Simpson, Allan Border and Ian and Greg Chappell have all shared their thoughts over the years, while Damien Fleming, Kerry O'Keeffe and Mark Richardson have also contributed. We've got Langer on Martyn, Warne on Lara, Lara on Warne and even McGrath on McGrath. From best-ever to the bookie scandal, a wanderer, to a warrior, and countless journeys in between, enjoy this tribute to Australian Test players No. 350, 353, 354, and 358.

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