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Lanka battle for spot in 'weaker' group

Though the ICC Trophy is already a week old, it will come to life only when Lanka and the Windies clash, writes A Karhadkar.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2006 15:49 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar

Though the Champions Trophy is already a week old, it will come to life only on Saturday when Sri Lanka and the West Indies, the two qualifiers from the group stages, clash at the Brabourne Stadium.

It may appear that the encounter between the Lankans- unbeaten in their last nine ODIs- and the defending champions West Indies is of little importance as they are both through to the main event, after comprehensive wins over minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

However, there is more to the story — the winner of the match will be placed in Group B, along with South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand. The loser, on the other hand, will have to compete against the world champions Australia, World Cup finalists India and England in order to gain a place in the semifinals. And this is what the game will be all about.

Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody, however, said it did not matter which group they eventually are placed in.

“Just because Australia are the favourites, it does not mean that they have sealed a place in the semifinals at this moment,” Moody said on Friday.

“I suppose most of the teams think that Group A is the group to stay away from,” he said. “But why can’t we beat Australia? They’re a good side but they’re beatable.”

Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene, in great touch with the willow, is not taking the match lightly. “Winning is a good habit,” he said. “And we would like to continue our streak. We realise that we will face a tough challenge.”

West Indies also were in no mood to take a step backward. With Chris Gayle going hammer and tongs at the top of the order, the pressure on skipper Brian Lara seems to have reduced.

"Obviously, Chris has provided great stability to our batting order,” Lara said. "He really sets the tone for us with the bat, and he is valuable with the ball also.”

However, Lara is not keeping the dangerous Muttiah Muralitharan out of the equation."

On his day, Murali can destroy any side,” Lara said. “Though I have played him well earlier, one always has to be cautious while facing him.”

The two teams have not really been tested yet. While the West Indies have lost only one wicket in two matches, the Sri Lankans have experimented with their bowlers, resting even Chaminda Vaas.

Lara, however, is not worried about this lack of practice.

"If we haven’t been tested, so is the case with the Sri Lankans,” he said.

He also said his team has a plan to tackle opener Upul Tharanga, who has hit centuries in Sri Lanka’s two wins.

First Published: Oct 14, 2006 00:54 IST