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Sri Lanka's bowling attack will test the Aussies
April 28, 2007
Who can stop the Australian juggernaut? The way they smashed the hapless South Africans in the semi-final on Wednesday, it appears they are destined to win their third consecutive World Cup.
Only Sri Lanka stand in their way now. The safe money though is on Australia to continue their demolition job simply because of their total dominance in previous matches -- 10 wins out of 10 is an amazing record and at no stage have they even been tested or threatened.
Even in the Super 8 match between the two finalists, the Aussies easily came out on top by seven wickets. This time though their opponents will be at full strength in the title clash having rested Chaminda Vaas and Muthiah Muralitharan for that game.
There are five survivors from the 1996 final at Lahore which Lanka won. Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath will be itching to avenge that defeat and make it a hat-trick of titles for Australia while Sanath Jayasuriya, Muralitharan and Vaas will be desperate to add to that solitary crown.
To add spice to the encounter, Lanka's Australian coach Tom Moody will now be busy plotting the downfall of his former teammates!
The Aussie batsmen have been unstoppable, scoring 300-plus in an innings on six occasions and not losing more than six wickets in any innings during the whole tournament.
Matthew Hayden, Ponting and Michael Clarke have all scored over 400 runs with Hayden threatening Sachin Tendulkar's record (675) of most runs in a single World Cup.
The bowling has been equally impressive with veteran McGrath the front-runner to be named 'player-of-the-tournament'. What a way for him to retire from the game, more so if they win the cup on Saturday!
The erratic and unpredictable Shaun Tait, the fastest bowler in the tournament, has also had a wonderful time in his maiden World Cup and Nathan Bracken and Brad Hogg have brilliantly complemented the pace duo.
Just look at their record in the tournament -- the highest total against them has been 294 and on five occasions, teams have scored 150 or less. Their winning margins have been massive -- from 215 runs to ten-wicket victories. However, the final should still be an intriguing encounter because of the unpredictable nature of sport and what can happen on a particular day.
Can the Lankans put a halt to this awesome run of victories? That is the million-dollar question the cricket world is asking.
Pressure can do funny things to players and teams and some players respond better than others. The bigger the occasion, the better they play or the more they crumble. Just look at the way the South Africans succumbed on Wednesday.
Although going by the form book it looks unlikely they will have a bad day, the law of averages suggests the Aussies are due to fail just like all the other teams have at some stage or the other over the past seven weeks.
The in-form Sri Lankans certainly deserve their place in the final. They have proved to be an efficient and capable unit with plenty of big-match performers. They completely outplayed, out-thought and out-classed the Kiwis in the first semi-final on Tuesday and have a team that is well balanced and capable of performing under any conditions.
Their bowling attack will test the Aussie batsmen with their nagging accuracy and skill. Murali has weaved his magic throughout the tournament, and with 23 wickets he is chasing McGrath who is on 25. He has posed problems for all batsmen but I have heard on good authority that Murali told an Australian player that the Aussies have played him better than any other team throughout his career.
That is not good news for the Lankans because if Murali fails to deliver, the contest could be all over.
Lasith Malinga, with his unusual action, bowled magnificently in the semis and was almost unplayable with the new ball. He is also well skilled with the old ball when it's reversing.
Sri Lanka have three world class bowlers, including Vaas, but must be concerned as to how well the third seamer and the part-timers can restrict the mighty Aussie batsmen.
Sri Lanka's batting depends heavily on their senior and experienced players. If Jayasuriya, whose record against Australia is average, is able to cut loose, Kumar Sangakkara plays well and Mahela Jayawardena can continue his impressive form, the middle order has the players capable of posting a competitive score. They will need every run possible.
With so many one-sided games to date, hopefully we will finally see a match befitting a final.
- Sabina Park pitch may suit the Kiwis
-- Distributed by GE Features
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