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May 15, 2010
Report : Kieswetter and Pietersen seal title for England
Preview : Cricket's oldest battle resumes in newest format
News : How T20s became a serious business for Australia
Matches: Australia v England at Bridgetown
Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20
The two strongest teams at the World Twenty20 have made the final, but the question remains whether England are good enough to end Australia's winning run at the last hurdle.
Michael Clarke's side have shown they really can win from any position with batting collapses and monumental chases no barrier to the confidence surging through the line-up. England, though, have plenty of belief of their own after producing their most confident cricket in coloured clothes since 1992.
It's a mouthwatering prospect. Just to add spice to the occasion there has, of course, been mention of the A word. It's still six months until the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, but such is the hyped nature of that duel that this is already being viewed as the start of the countdown. The captains have slightly differing views.
"I don't think you need any extra motivation. This is a World Cup final, no matter who you're playing against," Paul Collingwood said. "This is what it's all about; this is why we play the game of cricket. This is literally the ultimate. You've got through to a World Cup final; you're playing against the old enemy, Australia. It doesn't get much better than this."
Clarke added that it wouldn't compensate for losing the Ashes last year but would set the ball rolling nicely for the next contest. "It won't make up for it, but it would be a fantastic start to what is going to be a great summer back at home," he said.
"I'm certain every Australian and every English person loves seeing that battle. It's always tough cricket, in any form of the game. I'm certain tomorrow will be no different. So for now, it's about focusing on a huge game - a final - against a very good team."
Australia have been here before and are veterans of global finals - although not in this format - whereas for England's it's their first since 2004 and then it's right back to 1992 to find the last time they lined up in the final two. On both occasions they came up short, against West Indies' tailenders at The Oval and Imran Khan's inspired Pakistan team at the MCG, to add to the runner's up medal's of the 1979 and 1987 World Cups. It's a thin list.
Compare that to Australia's glittering collection which includes a hat-trick of World Cups and the current Champions Trophy title. Victory in this final will make it a full house back at the Cricket Australia offices in Jolimont. When the pressure moments come the experience of being in those situations could prove vital. Australia have seven players with finals experience, while Collingwood is England's lone survivor from 2004.
"The guys who have taken part in big cricket matches - it doesn't necessarily have to be a final - have a huge advantage," Clarke said. "There were probably guys in our squad that were picked not only because they are great Twenty20 players but have experience as well - World Cup experience, big Test match experience. Having a few senior players around will help the youngsters control their emotions."
If any of the England players had watched the second semi-final it would have been a daunting experience to see how Australia managed to win. No other team in the world would have chased down those runs against Pakistan from such a position, but England refuse to be intimidated.
"We always knew what Australia were capable of," Collingwood said. "Whoever we played against in the final were going to be a strong side. Nothing surprised us yesterday. All we can concentrate on is our game. There's plenty of confidence in our side, the way we've played throughout this tournament has given us a lot of belief.
"We believe we've got the skills to beat any side on the day. Australia have always been a very strong side, and they still are. It bodes well for what should be a very, very good final. I don't really want to harp on too much about Australia, because we've always known what they can do. What I want to harp on about is England. We have surprised a few of ourselves in this tournament - and the guys are very, very positive."
Australia arrived in Barbados still buzzing from their incredible run chase in St Lucia. The emotions were so raw after Michael Hussey hit the winning runs that a 48-hour turnaround before the final could have caused problems about bringing the players back down again. However, rather than blank it out and focus purely on this match Clarke wants his squad to bottle the feeling.
"I don't think I want the guys to forget that," he said. "I think that memory will stick in my mind for the rest of my career. It's one of the most amazing games of cricket I've been involved in.
"I think we need to understand and accept that game's gone. But just keep in the back of your mind that what we showed the other day could happen out here as well. In our minds, we need to be very confident that we're never out of the game, we always have a chance."
England, themselves, have reached new heights over the last two weeks but are going to have find an even higher level to stop Australia from claiming cricket's Grand Slam.
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