Ahead of tonight’s do or die one day final
between Australia and Sri
Lanka, the players
are doing plenty of good work off the field in an attempt to unsettle their
opponents.

After Australia’s
crushing defeat of Sri Lanka on Sunday night, Ricky Ponting stepped immediately
into spin mode, presumably to capitalise on any doubts created by the 167 run drubbing. He described his team’s batting performance as the best ever in one day cricket, which might
be true. But he also said the Brisbane pitch would favour the home team.

Anyone who followed the banter leading into
the Sydney game might have detected a vague sense of relief in that comment. In
Sydney, the Aussies were playing for survival on one of the most spin-friendly
pitches in world cricket, against the second greatest spin bowler of all time, and
a supporting cast of enthusiastic young tweakers and turners looking for a historic
win. Ponting was thrilled to have prospered on a dangerous pitch.

Murali didn’t have such a grand night,
recording the worst ever one day bowling figures, 0 for 99. “An astounding
result,” wrote The Age,
“given that his 410 victims
are only six adrift of Waqar Younis for second place on the all-time one-day
wicket-takers’ list.”

To put that in context, he also only needs
six wickets to be the only current player to have claimed 1000 wickets, and the
Gabba is a happy hunting ground. As the Advertiserreported, he’s taken nine wickets at 12.33 in four matches there.

So today he’s talking tough. According to
Fox Sports,
Murali is “defiant” and will bounce back. He has plenty of reasons to, chief
among them redemption. It’s a feature of great sportspeople that they can come
back from failure with a vengeance. When you factor in that Murali could be
playing his last match in Australia, his ten overs tonight will be intriguing
to watch.

That’s something tonight’s game is notable
for. After another one day series that has raised questions about the value of one
day cricket in its current form, tonight’s game is going to be played with some
feeling. For one day cricket to remain relevant, there need to be more like it.

Peter Fray

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