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Wanted: A team to beat Australia

Reigning champions Australia have ploughed through World Cup rivals so ruthlessly so far that Ricky Ponting's men appear unstoppable.

india Updated: Mar 05, 2003 15:16 IST

Reigning champions Australia have ploughed through World Cup rivals so ruthlessly so far that Ricky Ponting's men appear unstoppable.

Australia go into the next round with six straight wins in the preliminary league, the only scare coming when England ran them close at Port Elizabeth last Sunday to force a last-over finish.

Australia's dominance was the only constant factor in an otherwise topsy-turvy World Cup that saw South Africa being knocked out by one run, the West Indies by rain and made unfancied Kenya the second most successful team of the first round.

Pakistan faded away despte Wasim Akram reaching the 500-wicket mark and Shoaib Akhtar breaking the 100-mile an hour barrier.

England wanted their Zimbabwe game cancelled, then called for day-night matches at Durban to be done away with. Unfortunately, they could not get the draw changed to remove Australia from their Group.

The World Cup had its most controversial start ever when star spinner Shane Warne was banned for taking illegal drugs, Pakistan's Rashid Latif was accused of racial abuse by the Australians, and Zimbabweans Andy Flower and Henry Olonga launched extraordinary protests against the Robert Mugabe government.

Worse, England and New Zealand added to the headache of the organisers by refusing to play in Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively.

But off-field happenings took a backseat as Sachin Tendulkar dazzled with the bat like only he can to emerge this tournament's highest scorer with 469 runs.

Sri Lankan seamer Chaminda Vaas took a hat-trick with the first three balls of the match against Bangladesh, grabbed another with the fifth delivery and now leads the bowlers' list with a joint tally of 16 with West Indian Vasbert Drakes.

While Australia carry 12 maximum points into the Super Sixes, Kenya take 10 after a stunning win over fellow qualifiers Sri Lanka and four easy points against the Kiwis who boycotted their game in Nairobi for security reasonnd force a rain-hit tie against South Africa.

Stephen Fleming's New Zealand may have been lucky to sneak through after South Africa's heart-breaking exit, but victories over Shaun Pollock's home team and the West Indies earlier in the league ensured they will not be toyed around with.

Zimbabwe, as lucky as the Kiwis, now get a chance to prove they are worthy qualifiers after just two wins in the league against minnows Namibia and the the Netherlands.

First Published: Mar 05, 2003 15:16 IST