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Sunday, April 18, 1999 Published at 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK


Australia: Form Guide

Australia line up after beating Pakistan in 1998


Player profiles: click here

Australia showed enormous character in April when they fought back to win the fourth Test against the West Indies, levelling a see-saw series and again making off with the Frank Worrell Trophy.

Just as they were read the riot act when they went 1-0 down to England in the 1997 Ashes, they were told the Australian public just would not tolerate their team coming home without the spoils of war.

Once again they dug deep and found what they were looking for.

The same applies to the World Cup.

They were expected merely to turn up in the final against Sri Lanka three years ago and make off with the trophy they last won in 1987. Messrs De Silva and Ranatunga had other ideas.

The extraordinary feats of the overlooked Sri Lankans may have eclipsed the disappointment felt by the Aussies in 1996 - but no such excuses will apply this time.

Victory is all

Under the new captaincy of Steve Waugh, anything less than victory in the tournament will be seen as failure.

But Waugh is up against it. The West Indies have shown Australia to be fallible in a way they never seemed to be under his all-conquering predecessor Mark Taylor.

Question marks hang over Shane Warne, who at least will not have the pressure of Stuart MacGill pushing for his place.

Mark Waugh does not look like the batsman who scored three centuries in the last World Cup.

And, Glenn McGrath apart, the bowling lacks real experience at international level.

What the Australians do have though is a good knowledge of English conditions.

Quite apart from their six-Test series in England two years ago, seven of their most experienced players have played county cricket - all with considerable success.

Risk-takers

Though all the players are decent fielders with strong throwing arms, Australia have taken a risk by including more than a few thirty-somethings - the average age of the squad is over 29 - with the likes of Tom Moody and Paul Reiffel (both 33) now prone to injury.

Some of the players they have left out - the likes of MacGill, Jason Gillespie, Stuart Law, Greg Blewett and Michael Slater, who is simply one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket - would walk into many other national teams.

But such is the Aussie way. They are ready to gamble in a bid to take the world crown.

They have bitten the bullet - and Steve Waugh will be only too well aware of the consequences should he return home empty handed.



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