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Swarming gold gives Australia the feel of a home game in World Cup final

Swarming gold gives Australia the feel of a home game in World Cup final

Hundreds of Australians dressed from head to toe in green and gold gave Ricky Ponting's team the feel of a home game at the World Cup final on Saturday as it sought to beat Sri Lanka and become the first to win the title three times in a row.
Australia's supporters were conspicuous in most stands at the renovated Kensington Oval while Sri Lanka just had a smattering of fans. But a huge number of host West Indies cricket followers appeared to be lending support to the subcontinental team which was last country to beat Australia in a World Cup final 11 years ago.
Watched by the country's president Mahinda Rajapakse who has flown in for the final, Sri Lanka went out seeking to revive the title-winning spirit of 1996, after which Australia got into winning spree that now features successive titles in 1999 and 2003.
"I'm backing my friend (Muttiah) Muralitharan to turn the screw," said Dwayne Leverock, the burly Bermuda policeman whose agility despite his girth become a feature of the early rounds when the amateur players from the smallest country to play in the World Cup made their debut last month.
Muralitharan's tidy spell could not restrict Australia's batsmen, who hammered 281 for four in the rain-curtailed 38-over contest.
The Aussies were in high spirits despite persistent showers being a dampener for the showpiece final of the premier limited-overs tournament.
New York-based Australian banker Daniel Pittorino was confident the "Aussies will romp home."
"We knew we're going to be in the final, so planned the visit for the World Cup's last week," said Pittorino, who is here in a group of London-based Australian bankers.
"This is a rare opportunity to see a top-grade cricket event in the vicinity of the United States, and it's great to here when the Australians are such great form."
Throughout the 47-day tournament, which began March 13, Australian fans have come out in large numbers to support their team, making this the biggest group of supporters for the cricket team from Down Under in the past couple of decades.
"We're part of a group of 720 Australians on one cruise ship, and I believe there a four or five groups like ours who have come to see the World Cup," said Barry Wacker, 65, who is on his first cricket tour.
Joining him for the tour to watch "cricket in paradise" is his wife Kathy, who left their home in North Stradbroke Island, near Brisbane, at the start of April.
"Fantastic destination and a fantastic Australian team. What more do you want for your first tour as a cricket supporter?" said Wacker. "All that's left to see now is Australia carrying the World Cup back once again."
Sri Lanka too had some supporters exuding confidence, reminding those in the adjoining seats "not to forget '96."
S. Sivasubramaniam, a travel agent from London, believes Sri Lanka's team "will pull off a giant killing performance in the final."
"We've been waiting for another World Cup in our collection, we want (captain) Mahela Jayawardene and the boys to give us this lovely present," said Sivasubramaniam, who came for the final after winning a competition conducted by Sri Lankan Airlines.
Sitting beside him was Basil Perera, also from London. He said he was a huge fan of aggressive opener Sanath Jayasuriya, the former skipper who is among the six batsmen to score more than 10,000 runs in limited-overs internationals.
"I'm backing Jayasuriya to hammer the Australian attack this time, and he better do it now, for this surely would be his last World Cup," said Perera.
Sri Lanka's support grew as supporters joined them from other nations who had been knocked out of the tournament, some by Australia.
South African Butch Courtney, from Johannesburg, was backing Sri Lanka based on the theory of "ABA" (Anybody But Australia) _ willing to support any team taking on the rampant Aussies who had won 22 World Cup games in a row headed into the final.
Australia's unbeaten run in World Cup matches, numbering 28, stretches back to the 1999 World Cup. It also includes a tied match against South Africa in the semifinal of that event.
"We support two teams ... South Africa and any other side that can beat Australia," said Courtney, who has been to several Caribbean islands watching cricket over the past 12 days.
Scores of fans from India and Pakistan joined in backing the subcontinental team.


Updated : 2021-08-05 03:47 GMT+08:00