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Australia target Pietersen ahead of final

Australia captain Michael Clarke wasted little time in upping the pressure on England's Kevin Pietersen ahead of the World Twenty20 final between cricket's oldest rivals in Bridgetown on Sunday.

cricket Updated: May 15, 2010 09:43 IST

Australia captain Michael Clarke wasted little time in upping the pressure on England's Kevin Pietersen ahead of the World Twenty20 final between cricket's oldest rivals here on Sunday.

Pietersen has led the way for England with 201 runs at an average of 67, including match-winning fifties in the Super Eights against both defending champions Pakistan, who lost to Australia in a thrilling semi-final, and his native South Africa.

Only a brief break to return to London for the birth of his son staunched the flow of runs and there was no sign of jet-lag as South Africa-born Pietersen made an unbeaten 42 off just 26 balls in England's commanding seven-wicket semi-final win over Sri Lanka.

"Kevin Pietersen coming back into form plays a huge part," Clarke told reporters after Australia had chased down a mammoth 192, thanks mainly to Michael Hussey's superb unbeaten 60, to beat Pakistan by three wickets with a ball to spare.

"He (Pietersen) is a wonderful player in all three forms of the game. He'll be a big part of the final.

"If we can get him out early it will hold us in good stead."

Pietersen's was seen giving his team-mates stick over some lax fielding during the match against Sri Lanka, last year's losing finalists.

"There is a fine line between demanding high standards...and then stepping over that line into a petulant world, and a world that damages the team in any way," said England coach Andy Flower.

But he was at pains to stress how Pietersen was a "good professional athlete" who was bound to benefit from becoming a father for the first time.

"It can only be a positive experience. I think anything that our guys find to keep sport in perspective is a good thing."

Perspective is set to be in short supply in a match now being billed as a scene-setter for England's Ashes defence in Australia later this year.

The Kensington Oval pitch has suited Australia's fast bowlers, with the trio of Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson not just quicker than their England counterparts, but quicker than any attack England's batsmen have faced so far in this tournament.

However, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom and Tim Bresnan are more than mere 'pie-throwers', although they would love to be underestimated by Australia.

England, like Australia, have until now struggled to make an impact in Twenty20. In part this is because it is only recently that the world's two oldest cricket cultures have taken the 'upstart' format seriously.

But while England have yet to have their batting depth truly tested at this event, the same cannot be said of Australia.

Hussey, who oversaw recoveries against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, surpassed even his standards as Australia slumped to 144 for seven in the 18th over against Pakistan.

He produced what Clarke labelled a "freakish" innings of 60 not out from 24 balls to see the team home.

Do England have a Hussey? It doesn't sound a pleasant question but it's one Paul Collingwood's men may need to answer.

Nevertheless Australia, unbeaten at this tournament, did collapse against Pakistan even if, as Clarke insists, "they never know when they are beaten".

And the Akmal brothers, who both made fifties against Australia, showed England, who have been boosted by the new opening partnership at this event of Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb, the way to play Clarke's quicks.

"I thought they were always going to go a little bit steady in the first six overs and try to keep wickets in hand, and I imagine England might do the same," Clarke said.

"If I was playing against our attack that's what I would try to do."

England, who may look to spin to stifle their old foes, have never won a major one-day title.

Australia, who lifted the last of their three successive World Cup trophies in Barbados three years ago, know all about playing in showpiece matches.

England beat Australia by 100 runs when they first met in a Twenty20 international, in Southampton in 2005.

Few expect a repeat on Sunday but in the fast-paced world of Twenty20, predictions can be over in an over.