Australia are seeking an unprecedented fourth successive World Cup crown
When Australia were being resoundingly beaten in the Ashes, unable to decide on a settled team, frantically experimenting with ineffective spinners and a faltering batting line-up and their woefully out-of-of-form skipper Ricky Ponting broke his finger, their chances of a fourth successive World Cup victory seemed remote.
But as so often with a major tournament is on the horizon, they proved they can still be a force to be reckoned with after a 6-1 demolition of England in the recent one-day series.
Of the 11 players who took the field for the 2007 final, five have retired, Andrew Symonds has been consigned to the wilds of the international wilderness and Mike Hussey will miss the event through injury but though the Australians may have slipped to fifth in the Test rankings they remain the world's top-ranked one-day side.
WORLD CUP RECORD
Australia first won the competition in 1987 but it was not until Steve Waugh was at the helm that their domination of the event began. They needed barely 20 overs to chase down a paltry total set by Pakistan in 1999, became the first side in World Cup history to win all their games en route to an emphatic triumph in 2003 and Adam Gilchrist scored the fastest century in a World Cup final as they thrashed Sri Lanka in a rain-affected match in Barbados four years ago.
Ricky Ponting is the second-highest run-scorer in World Cup history behind - you've guessed it - Sachin Tendulkar. But recently he has endured the most difficult spell of his hugely successful career with an unprecedented third Ashes defeat as captain, a wretched run of form yielding only 113 runs in seven Ashes series innings leading to question marks about his future and a broken finger. He will be hopeful of creating rather more palatable landmarks in this event, namely the first man to play in four finals and to lead his side to a hat-trick of tournament victories.
Shane Watson has overcome a reputation as an inconsistent, injury-prone middle order batsman and change bowler to become a trail-blazing attacking opener in all forms of the game, who can also build pressure and take key wickets in the middle overs with his shrewd swing and seam. Averaging over 40 with the bat and 125 wickets with the ball, the Queenslander is an indispensible part of the Australia team.
Brett Lee is fully fit again and though now 34 is once again bowling with venom. Having missed the 2007 tournament through injury he will be determined to propel Australia to another triumph in what will surely be his final campaign. Lee will be part of a potentially devastating, eminently watchable pace attack with the mercurial Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson. The loss of Hussey could be telling but there is his brother David to anchor the innings plus the emerging talent of Callum Ferguson, the enigmatic Cameron White and the hope that Ponting will return to his imperious best. Even quite near it will make them a tough side to beat. One thing is certain, despite having more practice at it than in previous eras, they still hate losing.
Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Callum Ferguson*, Brad Haddin (wk), John Hastings, David Hussey, Mike Hussey*, Mitchell Johnson, Jason Krejza*, Brett Lee, Tim Paine (wk), Steve Smith, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Cameron White.
* Ferguson and Krezja were called up as replacements for Mike Hussey and Nathan Hauritz; Hussey later replaced Doug Bollinger