Fri, Apr 27, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Australia ready to face Sri Lanka

FINAL BATTLECaptain Ricky Ponting expressed confidence in his team's ability after they destroyed South Africa in the semi-final to set up a date with Mahela Jayawardene's side

AFP , GROS ISLET, ST. LUCIA

Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds, left, and Mike Hussey, right, congratulate bowler Nathan Bracken, center, after the dismissal of South African captain Graeme Smith in the semi-final of the ICC World Cup at the Beausejour Cricket Ground in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Australia captain Ricky Ponting insists his world champions are ready to face down Sri Lanka's veteran bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas in tomorrow's World Cup final.

Australia have already beaten Sri Lanka in the tournament when they won their Super Eights clash by seven wickets in Grenada 10 days ago.

But the Asian side courted controversy by resting Muralitharan and Vaas, two of the survivors from the team which beat Australia in the 1996 final.

"Sri Lanka have a chance to make a statement against us," Ponting said after Australia eased into a fourth successive final with a seven-wicket win over South Africa. "There's no doubt Sri Lanka are a good team, but we are very confident after what we've done in the last seven weeks. Winning games with big margins gives us a lot of confidence."

"I think we executed our game plan very well the last time we played them. They had their full batting line-up and we bowled them out," Ponting added. "We know Murali will do what he does. Lasith Malinga is bowling well and Vaas is a good bowler with the new ball."

Australia have won all of their 10 matches so far in the Caribbean and are unbeaten in their last 28 Cup matches, a run stretching back to the 1999 tournament in England.

Tomorrow's showdown in Barbados will be a repeat of the 1996 final when the islanders beat Mark Taylor's Australians by seven wickets in Lahore.

Ponting's confidence is further boosted by the manner of Australia's win over South Africa.

Proteas skipper Graeme Smith won the toss and chose to bat, but inside 10 overs his team were 27-5 before they were finally bowled out for just 149.

The Australia skipper hailed it as the best performance so far, but believes they can top it in the final.

"We are not saying we are unbeatable. We certainly can be beaten if we don't do things well," Ponting said.

"South Africa are a very good team, and we think we have got some improvements to come. But when the bigger games come, the Australian team stands up. We did that and I hope we will do it in the final," he added.

Australia reduced Wednesday's semi-final to a no-contest when they bowled out the opposition with more than 18 overs to spare. The total of 149 was South Africa's lowest in World Cup history.

But Ponting refuses to believe that South Africa choked.

"One-day cricket can be that way sometimes. I've never used the word in my life and I won't. They were outplayed by a better team, as simple as that and it was a big occasion," he said. "It's a World Cup semi-final. They came out really aggressive and very positive and tried to force themselves on the game. Sometimes in one-dayers it comes off and other times it doesn't."

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