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September 23, 2006
Having seen off India's timid challenge, Australia and West Indies will contest bragging rights in the DLF Cup final in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. For the first time in a competition where they have experimented with all types of combinations, Australia will be fielding their strongest side, and a West Indian team missing the experience and canny swing bowling of Corey Collymore will have its work cut out to be competitive.
The two teams split the two matches in the league phase, with West Indies having squandered a tremendous opportunity in the tournament opener, when they went from 172 for 1 to 201 all out. On Sunday though, they'll face the world's most potent new-ball attack, with Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee in tandem for only the second time in the competition. The support cast is no less impressive, with the ever-improving Shane Watson and Nathan Bracken, and West Indies would also do well to be wary of Brad Hogg, who sorted out a couple of Indian batsmen with his variations on Friday night.
The batting order, even without the hulking figure of Matthew Hayden - rested in view of not being part of the Champions Trophy squad - is imposing, with Damien Martyn likely to miss out from the twelve chosen for the game. Simon Katich and Watson should open the innings, with Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Michael Hussey forming a frightening middle order. Brad Haddin's effervescent efforts with the bat have made the absence of Adam Gilchrist seem like a trifling problem, and Hogg too is no Bugs Bunny with the bat.
West Indies' prospects will depend entirely on the top order, capable of shredding any attack on a good day. Brian Lara leads the way, and his 87 in the last game against Australia was touched with genius. Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul have also shown signs of exceptional form at various times in the tournament, and West Indies would love all four to make an impact against a bowling line-up that will be at them from the outset.
Jerome Taylor's raw pace complements Ian Bradshaw's control with the new ball, and Dwayne Smith has performed creditably in his outings with the ball, swinging it late with great accuracy. But Dwayne Bravo has had an indifferent series, and plenty of worries remain about the fragility of the middle order. Wavell Hinds scratched around dreadfully in the last match against India, and Marlon Samuels may just have played his way out of the XI.
With a thigh injury depriving them of Collymore's services, West Indies' only real hope is to bat big and hope to pressure Australia's batsmen into mistakes. Chasing against the likes of Lee and McGrath is a difficult task at the best of times, and as India found out yesterday, the anaconda grip gets you eventually.
Australia 1 Simon Katich, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Andrew Symonds, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Brad Hogg, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Nathan Bracken, 11 Glenn McGrath
West Indies 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Brian Lara (capt), 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Wavell Hinds, 7 Runako Morton, 8 Dwayne Smith, 9 Carlton Baugh (wk), 10, Ian Bradshaw, 11 Jerome Taylor
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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