Afro-Asia Cup 3rd ODI, Chennai June 10, 2007

Asia aim for clean sweep



Mark Boucher: Dead rubber or not, he is unlikely to allow Asia to walk away with a clean sweep without a fight © AFP

Back-to-back games are never easy and they are harder when played in hostile conditions like the Chennai summer. Asia have already won the Afro-Asia Cup and although Mahela Jayawardene, the Asia captain, said that they would take the last game at the MA Chidambaram Stadium as seriously as the first two, you can be sure that a few players won't mind a bit of rain to cool off. Rain, however, is unlikely.

With hardly any time to acclimatise to the conditions in Bangalore and Chennai, fitness problems have mounted. Justin Kemp, the Africa captain, said that Albie Morkel, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher and Thomas Odoyo picked up niggles during Saturday's game and with Loots Bosman still unwell, a final decision on the XI will be taken on Sunday morning.

Asia were always a stronger side on paper, and as expected the series is already in the bag. Africa, however, have by no means disgraced themselves. Shaun Pollock took them within striking distance of victory in Bangalore and on Saturday, several dropped catches allowed Asia to get a few more runs than they should have. In both the matches so far, an inexperienced African team have had to chase in excess of 300 and on both occasions they have responded bravely.

"Coming out of the African winter and with no nets, adjusting was a bit difficult. I think our guys did well," said Kemp. "If you look at scores we could have won both. We have a young team with players without much experience. They [Asia] are a very experienced bunch. We have pushed them hard and there was a possibility we could have won both the games but hard luck."

Jayawardene also indicated that there would be changes to the Asian XI for the final game. Upul Tharanga, the Sri Lankan opener, could play; in which case, he is likely to replace his regular partner, Sanath Jayasuriya, who has a stomach complaint. Zaheer Khan went off the field with a niggle during Saturday's match and there was a doubt over his participation on Sunday.

"Zaheer's is just a strain," said Jayawardene. "We will have to speak to the physio and find out. It's good that he stopped immediately and did not aggravate the injury. If he is not 100% [fit] he will not play. We have to take the third match seriously as the other last two matches. It will be nice to finish it of 3-0."

Yuvraj Singh hasn't had an opportunity to play a long innings so far in the series and is likely to bat higher up the order on Sunday. He scored 31 off 30 balls at Bangalore and pummeled 30 off 13 deliveries in the first game at Chennai during the slog overs.

With little at stake in the third one-dayer and packed international schedules ahead of several players, it's unlikely they'll push themselves too much. The young Africans, on the other hand, will be determined to go home with a victory to show for their toil. That, however, depends on how many of their key players are fit enough to face another humid Chennai evening.

George Binoy is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo