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The London Tea Party (1999)

This is the last part of a series of reports that we brought to you as a countdown to the world cup 1999 This report was written by our special correspondent K. Madhavan

We are barely hours away from the start of the month long extravaganza. The teams are gearing up to meet the challenges of the century's last cricket world cup.This time, my focus is going to be on the prospects of the rest of the teams in fray apart from India and Pakistan.

The latest quotings of the bookmakers are 3:1 for South Africa. They are my favorites too to win the final on June the 20th.They certainly have the most balanced side in the competition.They have a rather awkward opening match against the Indians although I expect them to win that tie. South Africans bat very deep,right till Donald at no.11.The only factor that could be held against them is the lack of class in their batting line up.But their strength is a collective effort on the batting front.Each man knows what his job is.They are led by,according to me the best captain the world at this point of time.Apart from the classy Donald and Pollock, they have Klusener and very good allrounders in Kallis and the skipper himself on the bowling front.Their fielding is second to none lead by the enigmatic Jonty. Their drawback however is the lack of a good spinner since the retirement of Pat Simcox.The other thing SA should guard against is early peaking.This has been their problem on a number of tournaments that one recollects. This is because there are always some matches that are more important than the rest.A 'big match player' as they call in tennis terms plays those big matches better than a consitent performer.The South Africans seem to play in one constant gear which the teams like Pakistan,India,Australia can overhaul if these countries lift their games in the big matches like the semis or the final. But South Africa has matured a lot these days and hope they would have learnt their and lessons and done the homework.

The Aussies are a good are a good side too.They could match the South Africans in every department right from work ethics to sledging.By their very nature,the Aussies are a aggressive lot.They would even go to the extent of bending the rules (if possible) to gain an upper hand over the opposition.They are an excellent fielding side, a good batting line up(again a lot of depth than quality) and an excellent bowling attack led by Glenn Mcgrath and Shane Warne.I would be very surprised if they fail to make the last four.

The other team from Down Under are the Kiwis.To me they are the dangerous floaters and could cause a major flutter or two.Recently they tied the oneday series against India and ran the mighty South Africans very close.The bottom line for them is to beat two of the three teams viz.. Australia,Pakistan and West Indies to progress to the super six.

The defending Champions, Srilanka are being almost written off by the experts.But I do not subscribe to that idea simply because they are the defending champions and wounded. They are back to full strength now with the return of Jayasuriya and Murali.I expect them to qualify atleast to the super six along with India and SA from group A.

If their performance against the Aussies recently is any indication, the West-Indies seem set to make a splash in the tournament.The key to their success will be Brain Lara,his fitness,form and captaincy.Personally, I feel it is between WI and NZ who would take the third spot from Group B.

The rest of the teams including hosts England don't seem to be on par with the other teams.So, the last four according to me would be SA,Aus and Pak/India/SL/NZ/WI taking the remaining two spots.From then on,the team that will win will be the team that would beleive it can.

To end though,let's pray that best team in the fray wins.Oops,where does that leave India!!!!

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