Flawless Aussies to test Sri Lanka~~s mettle

Published: Friday, April 27, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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The moment of recognition has arrived, and how? The two best teams of world cricket face each other in what one hopes should be a decent climax to an otherwise drab World Cup. Australia and Sri Lanka deserved to be contesting the title fight.

That Australia are clear favourites would be an under-statement.

There is no better team in world cricket today and what makes Australia more formidable is the awesome form the players have displayed in the last 50 days or so.

Can one pick any weakness in the Australian side; very tough to find flaws. The batsmen are in form, the bowlers are in form, and the team is being led brilliantly by Ricky Ponting, who seems to understand his strengths very well. They have played some consistently good cricket in this World Cup.

Sri Lanka have not lagged behind. On the support of the seniors, they have also looked a brilliant side and have continued to grow as a team with purpose. When each individual begins to understand play his role to perfection the job of the team management becomes easy and Sri Lanka have driven home this point most forcefully.

The key to winning the final would be to create pressure on the opposition. Having come this far, I would expect Australia and Sri Lanka to tackle pressure but then a Cup final offers challenges of a different kind. The expectations rise and with it one has to learn to cope with the demands on the field.

This is a very strong Australian side. The motivation level for players like Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath must be very high and one can expect Ponting to leave his stamp on the contest. Adam Gilchrist would love to sign off in style and the brutal force of Andrew Symonds could leave the Sri Lankans demoralised. There are enough compelling reasons for the Australians to put it beyond Sri Lanka and nothing can be more attractive than the fact that a win would mean a hat-trick of World Cup titles. No team has achieved it and it is for Sri Lanka to deny Australian that privilege.

With Mahela Jayawardene making that sensational century against New Zealand and someone like Muttiah Muralitharan gearing up to give his best on the big stage, I am sure the cricket fans can look forward to some exciting stuff at Barbados. True the pitch offers bounce to the fast bowlers but the Sri Lankans are adept at slowing down the game.

With slow bowlers like Muralitharan, T Dilshan, Jayasuriya and Russel Arnold in their ranks, Sri Lanka have the advantage of variety in the middle overs. The experience of Chaminda Vaas should be priceless in such situations.

Australia have to have a bad day to lose the match but Sri Lanka will have to play very well. Oz are known to grab early initiative and once Ponting spots an opening, it will be a tough task for Jayawardene to stop the opposition from dictating. Given Australia's strength, a target of 280 to 300 should be ideal for Sri Lanka to aim at.

After a series of disappointing matches, I hope we are treated to some quality stuff by the two most exciting teams in world cricket.

The fans in West Indies deserve a worthy finale to the World Cup.


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