After ending the Indian hopes on Friday night, the Australians were back at the Kinrara Oval ground on Saturday for one last practice session before the big day against the West Indies, a day when they will kick-start their preparations to realise their two major dreams for the year. If winning the Champions Trophy for the first time is the immediate item on their agenda, then reclaiming the Ashes from England would certainly be a bigger dream.
The time for more experiments is over. Though seasonal rains here made it difficult for the world champions to make full use of the opportunities, the time they did get in the middle was enough to give them a fair idea of their best mix.
“It was a terrific win last night. We have managed to win just enough games to reach the final. All the players have had a fair chance to press their claims for the future,” said Australian skipper Ricky Ponting on Saturday.
Ponting, incidentally, got a reprieve when match referee Chris Broad decided not to punish him for protesting umpire Mark Benson’s decision to recall Sachin Tendulkar during the victory over India on Friday.
Ponting’s tone and words suggested that the Australian team in the final would not be much different from the one for the Champions Trophy matches in India next month. “I think it will be pretty close. I do not think that there will be too many changes apart from Adam Gilchrist, who will come in for Brad Haddin,” he said.
For the West Indies skipper Brian Lara, the idea of playing Australia in the final does not seem to be too thrilling. Lara confessed he expected India to make it to the final. “The Indians did a great job by restricting Australia to 213. I thought India would definitely cross the line,” he said after his team’s practice at the Turf Club.
However, Lara and his team looked relaxed ahead of the final showdown with Australia.
“The pressure is even more on Australia to come good tomorrow. They may have tried different combinations earlier but I am certain that they will field their best team against us,” observed Lara.
While admitting that his side would start as the underdog, Lara showed no signs of worry and looked rather confident, his team having defeated Australia by three wickets in their last match.
“It is most important for us to win. I think not many people here thought we could actually reach the final, yet we made it before India and Australia,” said Lara.
The West Indian skipper, who has been inspirational as a leader with some electric performances, did warn that Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee could cause early problems to his team.
“The early phase of our batting would be critical as Australia are certain to play both McGrath and Lee. McGrath has not been among the wickets, but he has been bowling a tight length. If we can see out the first few overs without losing a wicket, it could make a difference.”
West Indies, severely hit by the absence of the injured Corey Colleymore, must take heart from Lara’s show with the bat, his innings of 87 against Australia a standout performance.
“My confidence is up. I am feeling good and getting to where I want to be. I do not want to peak too early as we have two months of cricket lying ahead before the World Cup, though it would not be a bad idea to get a big one tomorrow,” Lara said.
Australia better be wary.