For all that the World Cup is billed to be, there are a few contests that carry their own baggage, irrespective of the forum and format. Sri Lanka and Australia contests are played on a tinder box ready to burst into action any moment.Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga during a training sessionThe two teams face off at the Premadasa Stadium on Saturday in a Group A match that will have a bearing on the quarter-final line-up and also prove how the teams have coped with recent off-field ‘incidents’. Players from both teams have been accused, directly or indirectly, of indulging in fixing in this World Cup. If Australian openers Brad Haddin and Shane Watson were reportedly under the lens of the ICC anti-corruption unit for unusually slow batting against Zimbabwe during a game in Ahmedabad, a local channel in Sri Lanka accused Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera of throwing a match against Pakistan. Both episodes have since died down but such accusations don’t leave the players’ mind so easily. These incidents have added spice to an already fiery encounter, given what happened in the 1996 World Cup.That time, Australia and West Indies refused to tour Sri Lanka following bomb blasts in Colombo and the hosts entered the quarter-finals even before playing a single game. The Sri Lankans then had a dream run to the final, where they, ironically, met the Aussie and beat them in the final at Lahore.But when the teams enter the ground on Saturday, the baggages will have to be left in the dressing rooms. Current form and team balance will matter and this is where the difference between the two teams has narrowed down. The Australian team of the previous World Cups were so far ahead of the competition, most teams lost a large part of the battle even before the toss. But the current Australian side has a few shortcomings which Krejza – and will rely on their pace attack.advertisementBut it’s not a bad attack to rely on. Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson form one of the fastest and most potent pace battery seen in recent times. A lot of sides have opened the bowling with spinners this World Cup but teams can expect a barrage of thunderbolts from the Aussies first up. On the batting front, the form of Watson and Clarke will be of comfort. Skipper Ponting is slowly returning to form and fitness and will be the backbone of the line-up. The Sri Lankans have a few niggling concerns in their batting. Their middle order was exposed by Pakistan last Saturday and with a lethal pace attack to contend with, any frailties will be out in the open.They, however, have a trump card up their sleeve in paceman Lasith Malinga. He played his first game of this World Cup against Kenya and picked up a hat-trick and will be expected to give the initial breakthroughs on Saturday.The wicket at the Premadasa isn’t the minefield it used to be under lights, so chasing won’t be disadvantage. But with the overcast conditions seen over the past few days, the pacers could have a say in the game. There is very little separating the two teams. The Aussies have a proud record in ICC tournaments and Sri Lanka make the best possible use of home conditions. It could well turn out to be a case of who blinks first. the Sri Lankans know can be exploited.With Michael Hussey out of their side, the ability of their batting lineup to handle the Lankan spin attack will be severely tested. Skipper Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke will be the best bet against an attack which might have three spinners in Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath.The defending champions have a spinner with modest abilities – Jason Krejza – and will rely on their pace attack. But it’s not a bad attack to rely on. Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson form one of the fastest and most potent pace battery seen in recent times. A lot of sides have opened the bowling with spinners this World Cup but teams can expect a barrage of thunderbolts from the Aussies first up. On the batting front, the form of Watson and Clarke will be of comfort. Skipper Ponting is slowly returning to form and fitness and will be the backbone of the line-up.The Sri Lankans have a few niggling concerns in their batting. Their middle order was exposed by Pakistan last Saturday and with a lethal pace attack to contend with, any frailties will be out in the open.advertisementThey, however, have a trump card up their sleeve in paceman Lasith Malinga. He played his first game of this World Cup against Kenya and picked up a hat-trick and will be expected to give the initial breakthroughs on Saturday.The wicket at the Premadasa isn’t the minefield it used to be under lights, so chasing won’t be disadvantage. But with the overcast conditions seen over the past few days, the pacers could have a say in the game. There is very little separating the two teams. The Aussies have a proud record in ICC tournaments and Sri Lanka make the best possible use of home conditions. It could well turn out to be a case of who blinks first.
Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly has criticised Team India on its disastrous showing in the Nottingham Test. Speaking exclusively to Headlines Today, Ganguly termed India’s show as the worst that he has seen in the recent past. “I have never seen such pathetic performance by India in the last 10 years. India had opportunities (122 for 8 and when India were 267 for 4), but they couldn’t make use of that. I don’t want India to bowl first as it is difficult to bat 4th. India’s batting has been very ordinary. You can’t win with 200-150. We have to score big to win,” Ganguly said. India lost the second Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham against Engand by 319 runs on Monday. Ganguly added, “The team came here undercooked. They weren’t ready. Preparations were so poor for what is the Battle of the Year.” “Dhoni’s batting has been letting the team down. If he doesn’t score, the tail wouldn’t be able to. Look at how (Matt) Prior’s batting is helping the team. I will give benefit of doubt to Dhoni as of now. But time is running out for him,” the former captain said. Ganguly, who said it will be difficult for India to bet on Virendra Sehwag in the third Test, questioned Abhinav Mukund’s role in the team. “It will be difficult for Sehwag, but India have to gamble with him in Birmingham. What is Mukund doing? It’s strange Sachin Tendulkar hasn’t scored runs in four innings. But he looked good on Monday,” he said.advertisement
Catch all the live updates of the London Olympics opening ceremony @ Indiatoday.in Game for Gold: Special coverage of 2012 Olympics 05:15 am | The spectacular London Olympics opening ceremony comes to an end. Good bye!05:15 am | Sir Paul McCartney sings Hey Jude, crowd singing with him, what a classic opening of London Olympics! 05:10 am | What a view: Fireworks go off all over the Olympic Park as clips of iconic Olympic moments are played. 05:03 am | The petals come together to form an enormous cauldron. 05:00 am | There is the light that never goes out. The Olympic cauldron is lit. 04:55 am | Olympic flame comes to the stadium and is carried by Steve Redgrave. 04:50 am | Crowd cheers for Muhammad Ali, one of the most famous boxers of all time. 04:50 am | Olympic flag is brought into the stadium. It will go up shortly. 04:50 am | Queen Elizabeth II declares London Olympics Games open. Crackers light up the sky. 04:38 am | London Organising Committee chairman Sebastian Coe addresses the crowd: “Welcome to London,” he says. 04:30 am | British athletes take the lap in front of their home crowd. 04:25 am | And now Zambia at the flag end followed by Zimbabwe and Great Britain, the hosts. 04:20 am | March past almost coming to an end. Yemen’s contingent marches in. 03:55 am | Abhinav Bindra, Mary Kom surely missing. 03:50 am | Many top athletes have stayed away as they have events on Saturday!03:45 am | Usain Bolt gets a huge cheer as he enters the stadium.03:42 am | Kuwait back in Olympic fold. Seen at march past. 03:40 am | No head of state from India at opening ceremony. TV camera focuses on Randhir Singh and his wife. In Beijing, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka were there. advertisement03:30 am | Indian contingent marches in. Wrestler Sushil Kumar is the flag bearer. 03:26 am | Hesham Mesbah carries Egypt’s flag as their only medallist at the Beijing Olympics. 03:20 am | Adele’s Rolling in the Deep plays in the stadium as athletes march. Now Staying Alive by Bee Gees is playing. What a colourful selection of music.03:05 am | Basketball giant Yao Ming carries China’s flag at the Beijing opening ceremony. 03:00 am | Time consuming this exercise, each country walking into the stadium. 02:57 am | Australia’s flagbearer in London is basketballer Lauren Jackson. 02:53 am | The Greek flagbearer is Alexandros Nikolaidis, a taekwondo silver medallist in both Athens and Beijing. 02:50 am | Athletes start marching into the stadium. Greece first, followed by Afghanistan. 02:45 am | Choreographer Akram Khan and his group performs the dance which is a fusion between Indian art form and European classical. 02:35 am | Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the World Wide Web, gets standing ovation from the crowd. 02:30 am | Music that ruled last decade is at displayed, hundreds of participants dance to the tunes of Queens and the Rolling Stones. 02:20 am | English humour at its best, bravo Mr Bean – one of the greatest British comedians.02:10 am | Now he is racing against 15 odd competitors and he wins the race, brilliant… just brilliant. 02:15 am | Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is in the stadium to give everyone laughter medicine. He is playing piano with the British orchestra or he is just messing with the instrument! 02:10 am | Chilly wind blows across the stadium. Wonder why a hospital scene depicting NHS, Britain’s national health scheme is being shown.02:08 am | History of United Kingdom at display. Children and nurses from the National Health Service perform a cheery number! 02:05 am | Now the national anthem of the United Kingdom, performed by the Chaos Signing Choir. 02:00 am | Ladies and gentlemen please rise for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who just walked in the opening ceremony venue, what a royal moment! 01:55 am | A short film shows 007 James Bond (Daniel Craig) escorting Queen Elizabeth II from her palace to the Olympics venue.01:53 am | The fluorescent five giant Olympic rings hang over the centre stage and fireworks are amazing.01:50 am | The high decibel music is heady stuff indeed. Workers from old Britain showcased in labour scene. Their clothing is incredible, captures the ethos. 01:45 am | Spectacular display of great revolutions in British society, including the Industrial Revolution at the ceremony. 01:35 am | Tour de France winner Bradly Wiggins on stage. Giant bell tolls. 01:20 am | Ceremony officially opens – Finally the time we have been waiting for, the mega event officially begins. 12:40 am | Pre-show begins – The Red Arrows fighter jets of the British Air Force thunder above the Olympic stadium to signal the start of the opening ceremony pre-show begins 12:30 am | Countdown to 2012 Olympics – The world’s best athletes and top celebrities descend on the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, London, tonight for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games to celebrate the start of the ‘greatest show on earth’.advertisementOne billion people around the globe are expected to watch the spectacle, orchestrated by ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ director Danny Boyle. While details as to what will happen during the ceremony is a closely guarded secret, stars of the silver screen, royals and political giants are expecting to enjoy the party.Star-studded audience expected at the opening ceremony:1. Queen Elizabeth II 2. Prince William and his wife Kate3. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie4. Michelle Obama5. Mitt Romney6. David Beckham7. Muhammad Ali may also attend