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DateLine Sunday, 8 April 2007

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Australia set to knock England out

Antigua, West Indies, April 7: Who will celebrate Easter - the feast of the Risen Christ-? Will it be Australia or England?

The answer to this question would be found at the end of the game when bitter rivals, Australia and England lock horns at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here in Antigua. Australia who are the reigning World Cup champions and who are determined to win this one and make it three-in-a-row, an achievement never before achieved, are the favourites to knock England out, and out of the running for the World Cup.

In addition, Australia have a score to settle. England bashed them in the Commonwealth Bank one-day series in Australia, after being whipped in the Ashes series and on form, Australia should win this clash.

No matches were played on Holy Thursday and Good Friday-the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified on the Cross to atone for the sins of the world. On Saturday, South Africa and Bangladesh kicked off the tourney in Guyana. According to Australian coach John Buchnan, Australia is looking to eliminate England from the semi-final race with two more games to spare in the Super 8 tournament. For England, it is must win game to stay in the race.

After a 'net', the coach said that it is very important game for the Aussies and that coming out on top would enable them to knock another team out of the tournament.

Generally teams winning the toss have the liking to put the opposing team in to bat.

But the Sri Lankans showed that batting first or second would not matter if the teams adopt the right approach. Australia no doubt have the better all round side and they are equipped to face whatever the situation.

In Ricky Ponting they have one of the best captains going in this World Cup, the other being Sri Lanka's Mahela Jaywardena, and the Aussies will be cleverly directed.Led by opener Matthew Hayden who has two centuries to his name in the on-going tournament - the other being Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya - the Kangaroos have batsmen who can make big scores. Adam Gilchrist, the skipper, Micheal Clarke and Andrew Symonds can all take big runs.

They will miss allrounder Shane Watson in this game because of injury. But that would not matter to the Aussies. Left Armer Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait have met with success so far and they will be supported by the medium pace and off-spin of Symonds and the spin of Brad Hogg. The Aussies are one of the best fielding side, with Sri Lanka being the other.

As for England, their early batting has been woeful. Skipper Micheal Vaughan and Ed.Joyce have never given them the platform for the rest of the batsmen to launch out. Why England are not playing Andrew Strauss instead of Joyce only the England selectors could explain.

Only Ian Bell and Kevin Petersen have obliged with the bat, supported by Paul Nixon and Ravi Bopara. Most disappointing has been the overated Andrew Flintoff.

As punishment, Flintoff should have been dropped or sent home for the irresponsible shot he played against Sri Lanka which lost them the match. Australia is at the top of Super 8 standing with 6 points, sharing the lead with Sri Lanka and New Zealand but ahead on run rate.

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