Women's World Cup final, SuperSport Park, Centurion

Australia on fire ahead of final

Preview by Jenny Thompson

April 9, 2005

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Can Australia put their hands up in the final? © Getty Images
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In the build-up to this year's showcase event, all the talk had centred on who would face Australia to win the honours. It was widely expected that the World Cup final would be a repeat of the last one; the pundits were only half-wrong. For Australia's contestants won't be New Zealand - which would be a repeat of the women's final - but India, in a repeat of the men's.

If one team to make the final was difficult to pick - in truth, England, New Zealand and India all had a shout - then the four-times world champions Australia were a shoo-in. If you're looking for a sure bet this weekend, forget the Grand National.

"Our motivation is that we don't hold the Cup," Clark said simply, flatly, matter-of-factly, her side having been pipped to the post by New Zealand in 2000. The Australians responded emphatically: they rolled up their sleeves and have been polishing their skills for the last four years, their eye firmly on one thing.

The results have, so far, come up brightly: they swept allcomers aside to march unbeaten into the final, having already brushed aside the holders New Zealand 3-0 in the annual Rose Bowl trophy leading up to this event. They now are on the verge of cleaning up.



Will India be celebrating? © Getty Images
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But India could muddy the waters. While few would bet against Australia, the underdogs India, who have never been in the final, have an outside chance, and this is a two-horse race. They beat Australia three times in the run-up to the World Cup, albeit in a series they lost 4-3.

Yet to beat Australia at all shows they can do it, and coming back into that series after being down and out shows their bouncebackability. They have it in spades. If Clark embodies Australia's vim and vigour, then Mithali Raj encapsulates India's heart. Nobody evidences their tough spirit more than Raj, their brave captain, who has vowed to play through any pain her injured knee may inflict on her on Sunday. "I will definitely play the final, I cannot just leave my team now," she said after her side beat New Zealand in the semi-final. That's fighting talk.

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Players/Officials: Belinda Clark | Mithali Raj
Series/Tournaments: Women's World Cup
Teams: Australia | India
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