Vaughan and Lara keep cards close to chest
England and West Indies have played each other almost non-stop over the last seven months, but neither captain was prepared to read much into those results as they prepared for a final fling this season. Both captains said all the right things in their pre-match press conference, refusing to take digs at the opposition, and heaping plenty of praise on the stars of the rival camps.
Michael Vaughan was the first one to gush. He said: "They're an exciting team, with plenty of flair. Brian Lara will be treated no different to any of the other batsmen. In one-day cricket it's been very equal. It was two-all in the Caribbean and they won two out of three in the NatWest Series. They're a very good one-day side, with lots of depth."
Brian Lara, for his part, was equally forthright in his praise of England: "England have played very good cricket, both in the West Indies and at home. They've shown plenty of humility throughout too, and I've congratulated Michael and his team for that."
The inevitable question was of England's tactics against Lara. He had been felled by Shoaib Akhtar in the previous match - would England look to gain some psychological advantage from that? Again, Vaughan the diplomat came to the fore: "We haven't planned for every batter. We'll treat Lara just the same as other batsmen."
Lara echoed those sentiments when asked how he'd tackle England's big star of the season, Andrew Flintoff. "Flintoff has been the main man in their attack, whether batting or bowling. However, the guys who have the opportunity to play more overs - Marcus Trescothick, Vikram Solanki, and Vaughan - are as important to us. They can win them the game. We're looking at the entire opposition, not just a couple of guys."
Lara himself brushed off the blow he received from Shoaib. "I'm fine. I was just a bit dizzy immediately afterwards, but if I'd been required to bat in that game later I was ready. I'm fine. It's just a hit." Then he added: "I'm happy I'm not facing Shoaib tomorrow."
What about the challenge of facing Steve Harmison and Flintoff, both of whom have given Lara the short-ball treatment in the past, Lara tackled those queries with total nonchalance: "I've played Flintoff and Harmison before, and I know what to expect." He then denied this was a chance for him to hit back at the critics who had questioned his captaincy. "It's not an opportunity for me to prove anybody wrong, it's an opportunity for the team."
The one factor coming out from both press conferences was the high confidence levels in both camps. Vaughan said: "We're looking for last big push tomorrow. It's the second-biggest one-day tournament in the world. Being in our home country it's a little bit more special. We aren't going into tomorrow's game and treat it any different from the earlier games. We'll just try and relive those performances."
For the most part, Lara shrugged off England's dominance over his side in the Tests this season, but then he let on: "We're wounded, and would like to leave this country with some silverware. The guys are very hungry to come here tomorrow and do that. When they [England] beat Australia [in the semi-finals], I was confident we would meet again. It was just destiny." What will destiny have in store for the two teams tomorrow?