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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 12:12 GMT
The key to the ultimate prize
By Matt Majendie
BBC Sport

(Clockwise from top left) Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath
These four players could hold the key to the World Cup final
Strip the World Cup final down to its barest bones and it rests on the contest between Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly of India and Australia's Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee.

The Indian duo are the tournament's leading batsmen and have decimated the world's leading attacks, accumulating 1,110 runs in the process.

Tendulkar has been the undoubted star with the bat, while Ganguly has notched up three timely centuries with his team-mate back in the pavilion.

In contrast, McGrath and Lee are the world's most potent bowling attack, taking 38 wickets between them in the build-up to Sunday's final.

McGrath has been at his economical best throughout, shining on just one occasion when claiming seven wickets against minnows Namibia.

Lee has been in the form of his life, occasionally proving expensive but making amends by repeatedly ripping through batting line-ups.

THE QUARTET'S ROUTE TO THE WORLD CUP FINAL
Sachin Tendulkar:
Runs: 669
Average: 66.9
Highest score: 152 v Namibia
Sourav Ganguly:
Runs: 441
Average: 63.0
Highest score: 112 v Namibia
Glenn McGrath:
Wickets: 18
Average: 14.4
Best haul: 7-15 v Namibia
Brett Lee:
Wickets: 20
Average: 18.7
Best haul: 5-42 v New Zealand

To suggest the final rests solely on these four players perhaps oversimplifies matters - Andy Bichel, Andrew Symonds, Rahul Dravid and India's pace attack can have a major impact on a game.

But the course of the match would undoubtedly alter if Tendulkar or Ganguly failed with the bat and McGrath or Lee did not perform with the ball.

Both Indian batsmen have fallen cheaply to the Aussie pace duo.

On the nine combined occasions they have been dismissed by McGrath or Lee, they have not made it to double figures.

Tendulkar has fallen victim to McGrath five times in one-day cricket, as has Ganguly.

Lee has twice taken the scalp of Tendulkar and dismissed Ganguly during the nine-wicket defeat of India in the group stages.

Ganguly's departure for nine in that match and Tendulkar's for 36 - he had looked in sublime form before being dismissed by Jason Gillespie - typified their importance to the Indian cause.

With their two biggest stars failing to hit top form, India were skittled out for just 125.

Should they go cheaply again, Australia will have one hand on the trophy.

Of the quartet, Lee is Australia's chief weapon while Tendulkar is India's.

That little fella who opens the batting is one of the best batsman I've seen or played agains
Ricky Ponting on Sachin Tendulkar

Ganguly's three tournament centuries have come against lesser opposition - two against Kenya and one against Namibia.

But, at times, he has not always looked comfortable at the crease.

Likewise, McGrath's 18 wickets have come steadily rather than spectacularly.

In stark contrast, Tendulkar, with bat in hand, and Lee, with the ball, have been potentially the two most powerful players in the World Cup.

Australia have tried to play down the importance of "little master" Tendulkar, although skipper Ricky Ponting hailed him as "the best batsman I've seen or played against".

In the early mind games, Aussie vice-captain Adam Gilchrist believes Lee holds the answers.

"He rattled the Indians at Centurion Park and can do it again," said Gilchrist.

Only time will tell for the Johannesburg crowd on Sunday.




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