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Who can stop Australia?
John Mehaffey | April 23, 2007 11:44 IST
Viv Richards, the celebrated master blaster, stopped to consider. "Salmonella poisoning," he concluded.
Richards, speaking in his native Antigua during the World Cup Super Eights, went on to say some flattering words about New Zealand who defeated Australia 3-0 in this year's Chappell/ Hadlee series.
It would be interesting to hear the latest views of the great West Indies batsman last Friday after Australia completed their unbeaten run through the group stages by inflicting the biggest one-day defeat ever over their trans-Tasman upstarts, a staggering 215-run margin.
Afterwards New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said his side were still capable of beating Australia if the pair met in the World Cup final in Barbados this Saturday.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting was asked to comment.
"Yeah," Ponting said. "I would rather be in our room than theirs right at the moment.
"I'm sure they will be having all sorts of meetings over the next few days to talk about today's game. We will be having a beer tonight."
Australia have played each of the other three semi-finalists and won each game convincingly although South Africa briefly threatened in the group stages when they reached 160 without loss chasing 378 to win in St Kitts.
So what hope do their rivals have in the final stages of a tournament which seems to be stretching to infinity since the warm-up matches started early last month?
Australia will play South Africa again in the second semi-final in St Lucia on Wednesday the day after New Zealand meet Sri Lanka in Jamaica.
Australia's batting, with Matthew Hayden leading the way with three centuries, is truly formidable and the fielding matches the best Australian standards. The only ray of hope for their actual and potential opponents lies in the bowling.
Winning the toss is the first essential. With games in the Caribbean starting at 9.30 any overnight rain, cloud cover or underlying moisture must be exploited by bowling first before the sun comes out.
If the sun is shining and the pitch is benign, bat first, score a stack of runs and hope the ball gets soft and the pitch becomes frustratingly slow and low for the Australian stroke makers.
Fleming made the point again on Friday that his team had twice chased down totals in excess of 300 this year against essentially the same attack.
South Africa first and then England, when Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen were batting together, showed runs could be scored against the Australian bowling with comparative comfort.
Shaun Tait has been consistently the fastest bowler in the tournament but he can still be erratic and generous with the extras.
Nathan Bracken has mastered the conditions brilliantly with the new and old ball while still looking potentially vulnerable to a quick-footed batsman such as South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs.
Both South Africa and England successfully targeted Glenn McGrath during the Powerplays, taking advantage of his reduced pace in his final campaign before retiring.
Andrew Symonds is no more than adequate with off-spin or medium pace and Shane Watson is a competent but unthreatening fourth paceman.
Australia have also used Michael Clarke's flat left-arm spin to help back up Brad Hogg.
Hogg bowls unorthodox left-arm, a style which can be expensive, but he possesses a potent googly which few batsmen seem to pick and, consequently, they have been reluctant to leave their crease.
Overall the effect of the Australian bowling has been greater than the sums of its parts. Whatever the circumstances somebody has always come forward.
When nobody was effective for a long period against South Africa, Watson turned the game with a runout from the boundary.
The Australian bowlers at the 2007 World Cup seem hittable. But will South Africa and then either New Zealand or Sri Lanka summon the resolution and technique to consistently and successfully get after them for 50 overs?
Judging from results so far the answer seems to be no.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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