Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Champions Trophy `wide open'

SPIN TO WIN?Although the pitches in India seem to be strongly favoring the spinners, Sri Lanka coach Tom Mooday says results are still hard to predict

AP , AHMADABAD, INDIA

Sri Lanka cricketer Muthiah Muralitharan bowls during his side's ICC Champions Trophy match against New Zealand in Mumbai last Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

With favorites being upset at regular intervals, Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody believes the Champions Trophy could end up going just about anywhere.

"To me the contest is wide open," Moody said on Monday ahead of Sri Lanka's crucial Group B match against South Africa.

In the first six group games, there were at least three surprise results.

After coming through qualifying, defending champion West Indies upset top-ranked Australia by 10 runs in its opening Group A game.

Sri Lanka -- which won all three of its qualifying matches -- went down by four-wickets in a surprise result to an understrength Pakistan lineup and then New Zealand thumped South Africa by 87 runs.

"We have seen too many teams that are circled favorites already lose a game," Moody said.

Sri Lanka made a quick recovery when it defeated New Zealand by seven wickets at Mumbai last Friday to have two points from two games. A victory yesterday could strengthen Sri Lanka's position for a semi-final spot.

"I'm concentrating on our passage to the semi-finals and we'll be looking to play our best brand [yesterday]," Moody said.

For Sri Lanka, that means a lot of spin bowling.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith has criticized the spinner friendly Indian wickets -- particularly after his team was bowled out for 108 while chasing New Zealand's modest total of 195 at Mumbai.

However, Moody, who has champion offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan and experienced left-arm spinner Sanath Jayasuriya in his ranks, has no concerns.

"Most teams have adjusted their strategies and balance of their sides to accommodate the change in conditions that we are finding in this tournament," Moody said. "I don't have an issues with the wickets turning."

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene agreed that the pitch did favor spin, and said that was fine by him.

"We have lot of part-time spinners and they all are experienced so they can adopt to different conditions," he said. "The advantage that we have is that we've got Sanath, who is an experienced campaigner and Murali [Muralitharan] who is obviously something special."

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