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The time is right, says Hayden

Indian fans all remember Matt Hayden, the big Australian opener who relaunched his International career with a devastating series on the subcontinent.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2003 19:58 IST

Indian cricket fans all remember Matt Hayden, the big Australian opener who relaunched his International career with a devastating series on the subcontinent two years ago.

Hayden has been out of sorts by his own standards at the World Cup, scoring 291 runs at an average of 32.33.

He's looking for a match-winning role in Sunday's final and he's confident he's got the wood on India, particularly on a Wanderers pitch where the ball will come onto his bat.

"In the middle I have felt in really good touch but feelings" haven't so far translated to runs, Hayden said.

At Centurion, another fast pitch, he scored an unbeaten 45 as the Australians raced to a nine-wicket win in the league round, overhauling India's meager 125 in 22 overs.

Ranked No. 1 in the batting standings coming into the tournament, Hayden has managed just one half century in 10 innings and lost top spot to Indian rival Sachin Tendulkar, who has 669 runs including a hundred and six 50s.

Hayden, who wasn't a permanent member of the one-day squad before the tour of India in 2001-02, has been Adam Gilchrist's opening partner since Mark Waugh was dumped from the Australian team. A remarkable test series in India _ 549 runs in three tests _ resurrected his career and, since then, he's been a vital member of the national 11.

While others would be happy with an average above 30, the self-critical Hayden complains about his timing and the lack of a notable innings.

His trademark pull shot is not working, and he's been out a couple of times trying to play it.

"I wasn't happy with the way I was playing the pull shot," said Hayden. "I was getting frustrated. It is a benchmark shot of mine. I am hitting the ball so early because the conditions are slow. It is something we have to get used to."

But on a fast and bouncy Wanderers Hayden will be happy to play the pull shot against the quick trio of Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra _ where the ball will come on to the bat quicker. "I hope I can produce a dream innings and help the side win the trophy," Hayden said. "It's been frustrating times. "You try and overly pump yourself just for the occasion rather than bat on talent alone. It frustrates me on slow wickets when you don't strike the ball as well as you would hope." Hayden said he suffered a similar loss of form during the ICC champions trophy in Colombo in September 2002.

"There tends to be a lot of breaks between games. You are sort of playing games every four days. If you are not getting big totals you tend to lose a little bit of momentum," he said. "I felt I have had opportunities. Against India I was 40 not out and a chance of a big score there."

The 64-match veteran has scored just two centuries in his brief one-day career but has 16 half centuries in the 2,249 runs he's accumulated.

First Published: Mar 22, 2003 19:39 IST