Saturday 28 April 2007 

Sri Lanka Stick To Their Game Plan For Australia Final

Sri Lanka will not veer from their usual game plan in their bid to upstage champions Australia in the World Cup final, skipper Mahela Jayawardene said on Friday.

The 1996 champions face a big challenge against an awesome Australian team aiming for an unprecedented third title in a row at the Kensington Oval on Saturday.

"The most important thing for us is to play the brand of cricket that we have been playing," he said. "That is the best way to beat any side in the world.

"If you go out of your zone and try and do something which is not yours, you will end up not knowing what would work for you the best," he told a news conference.

Australia and Sri Lanka have had a frosty relationship and there will again be some extra spice to the repeat of the 1996 final when Sri Lanka won by seven wickets for their only win in six World Cup meetings.

Sri Lanka irked Australia this time after resting key bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan and left-arm paceman Chaminda Vaas in a seven-wicket defeat in the Super Eights second round, although both had already qualified for the semi-finals.

Jayawardene said their plan was to keep the duo fresh and denied it was meant to deny Australian batsmen from having a good look at them before the final.

However, Australian skipper Ricky Ponting said he felt a bit "let down" by Sri Lanka not fielding their best side, although Sri Lanka's best batsmen were all out for 226.

Muralitharan then grabbed four wickets to bowl the team to an 81-run semi-final win over New Zealand.

Sri Lanka are likely to retain the 11 from the semis after Jayawardene backed paceman Dilhara Fernando, who conceded 45 runs in five overs and bowled five no balls.

PAST MISTAKES

Jayawardene said Sri Lanka had learnt from the batsmen's mistakes in the Super Eights loss and also from South Africa's seven-wicket semi-final defeat to Australia.

South Africa tried to take on Australian bowlers too early, only to be bundled out for 149 on a good pitch.

"We probably saw that with the South Africans in the semi-finals," he said. "We know how South Africans play and they didn't play to their potential and to their game plan.

"They changed something and it didn't work for them," he said. "What we need to do is what is in our control, not something which is not."

Jayawardene said Sri Lanka should adapt quickly to the lively Kensington Oval pitch where they would play for the first time. Australia beat debutants Ireland at the venue.

He said, unlike South Africa, his team would bat cautiously if the situation required.

Jayawardene said Australia had not been pushed so far and that could change in the final.

"It is a big match, 100 overs," he said. "They are a good side, everyone knows that, we know that. But they are all human.

"They will come hard at you, especially in a final. We are quite capable of handling that."

© Reuters 2007

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