Friday, April 19, 2024

Heavyweights going toe-to-toe

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IN THE yellow corner is a multiple champion that has won every belt barring one.

In the blue corner is an uncrowned contender that has looked ominous in search of its first belt. They have thrown punches with ominous power over a series of preliminary bouts.

Now, they come face-to-face in a contest that will make one of them champion in the latest division of the sport.

That’s the script for the men’s final of the ICC World Twenty20, featuring all-conquering Australia and impressive England at Kensington Oval today.

For Australia, it presents a chance to add the only major title that has eluded them. They have won the last three World Cups, the last two Champions Trophies, but never made an impression in the first two tournaments in this the shortest form of the game.

“It would be fantastic [if we won]. We came here to try and win this tournament. We haven’t won it before. We’d be much happier leaving Barbados with that one last trophy,” captain Michael Clarke said yesterday.

For England, it gives them an opportunity to lift a global title for the first time. Defeats in the 1979, 1987 and 1992 World Cup finals and the 2004 Champions Trophy final will be forgotten if Paul Collingwood’s men can knock over Australia.

“When you’re going into a World Cup final there’s a lot of emotion around. But the guys seem very relaxed, and know their roles very well,” Collingwood said.

“We haven’t won anything yet. We’ve got to a final, but it means nothing until we win a World Cup. Until we do that, we’re going to keep our feet on the ground.”

Australia, who failed to get past the Group Stage at last year’s competition in England, have stormed into the final with a 100 per cent winning record.

They brushed aside the challenges of Pakistan and Bangladesh in the Group Stage; India, Sri Lanka, and West Indies in the Super Eights, and Pakistan again in the semi-finals when they had to dig deep to pull off a sensational victory off the penultimate ball when they were chasing 192.

On the evidence of that record, many will regard them as favourites to duplicate their unbeaten record of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

“People would have thought we were the favourites on Friday and we nearly got beaten,” Clarke said. “The fact is that we’ve got two wonderful cricket teams who’ve played fantastic Twenty20 cricket throughout this tournament.

“We have come a long way in this form of the game. But we didn’t come here to make the final, we came here to win the final.”

England have lost only once – in a rain-affected match in which they smashed 191 for five against West Indies and complained about the effectiveness of the Duckworth/Lewis Method in the Twenty20 format after the hosts were set a revised target of 60 in six overs.

Once they moved on to the Super Eights, England looked more and more ominous in taking care of Pakistan, South Africa, and New Zealand, and were even more convincing in the semi-finals where they made light work of Sri Lanka.

“There’s plenty of confidence in our side, the way we’ve played throughout this tournament has given us a lot of belief,” Collingwood said.

“We believe we’ve got the skills to beat any side on the day. We have surprised a few ourselves in this tournament and the guys are very, very positive.”

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