Special Correspondent

The English top-order versus the Aussie quicks could be the decisive battle

The in-form Kevin Pietersen could prove influential

Bridgetown: Cricket's oldest rivals will face off for the title in the youngest form of the game.

Australia meets England in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 here on Sunday. The match bristles with possibilities.

The stakes are high. The World Twenty20 crown has eluded the all-conquering Aussies. And England has never triumphed on the World stage in the abbreviated forms of the game.

The focus shifts to the fast and bouncy track of the Kensington Oval again. The Australian pace attack will be a clear and present danger.

Contrasting wins

The semifinals on the sluggish surface at St. Lucia could not have been more contrasting. England breezed through against Sri Lanka. Australia staged the great escape act in a heart-stopping duel of several twists. At the end of it all, the incredible Michael Hussey was the toast.

Sides that come back from the brink grow in belief. Australia will be hard to beat. The side has firepower in bowling and great depth in batting. You can never ever count the Aussies out of a game.

In fact, Australia's stirring comeback against Pakistan underlined the qualities that have made it an awesome unit.

The Aussies had an ordinary day with the ball and the fielding was below expected standards. Michael Clarke and his men seemed to have been stunned by the fire and passion of the counter-attacking Pakistanis.

Then Pakistan struck early with the ball. The semifinal appeared to be slipping away from the Aussies.

On a bad day, the Aussies still managed to win. The side, despite the fall of wickets, kept itself in hunt. And it found the right answers in a dramatic conclusion. The Australians are hugely talented; they are also resilient. When the chips are down, they can come back hard. Belief has been the cornerstone of their success.

The key match-up

The outcome of the match could be determined by how the English top-order fares against the Aussie quicks on a lively track. England batsmen are bound to be greeted with ‘perfume balls.'

England openers Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter have powered their side to strong starts. They will be up against the high-octane Dirk Nannes Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson in the summit clash.

The English hopes will hinge on the mercurial Kevin Pietersen at the pivotal No. 3 slot. The gifted stroke-maker is in his element. He put the fiery Dale Steyn to the sword in England's Super Eight clash against South Africa at the Kensington Oval.

He could dismantle the Aussie quicks too.

Pietersen versus the Aussie pacemen will be among the highlights of the contest. His footwork, balance, timing, and the ability to find the gaps or strike over the infield could put the Aussie attack under the scanner.

Of course England has skipper Paul Collingwood, who has the heart of a lion. The left-handed Eoin Morgan, strokeful and inventive, will be a key man down the order.

Well-balanced attack

England lacks the speed and hostility of Australia but has a well-balanced attack. Left-arm paceman Ryan Sidebottom has bowled particularly well by varying his pace and length and moving the ball. Stuart Broad, with his rising short-of-a-good-length deliveries, can be a handful at the Kensington Oval. The England pacemen have also employed the slow bouncer effectively.

Graeme Swann, operating with guile and deception, could probe the Aussies.

Despite Michael Hussey's blitz against Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal, the Aussies have been, traditionally, a touch vulnerable against quality off-spin. Swann should relish the extra bounce.

Left-armer Michael Yardy, quicker through the air and niggardly, has been an able foil for Swann.

The England bowlers will be tested by a formidable batting unit. Shane Watson and David Warner can be destructive up front and then there is a long list of batsmen who can strike the ball with power and purpose.

Ice Man Michael Hussey has been exceptional and Cameron White, growing in confidence, has added another dimension to the Aussie batting down the order.

Explosive action is on the cards. Sparks could fly.

The teams (from): Australia: M. Clarke (captain), S. Watson, D. Warner, D. Hussey, B. Haddin, C. White, M. Hussey, S. Smith, M. Johnson, S. Tait, D. Nannes, T. Paine, N. Hauritz, R. Harris, D. Christian.

England: P. Collingwood (captain), C. Kieswetter, M. Lumb, K. Pietersen, E. Morgan, L. Wright, T. Bresnan, S. Broad, G. Swann, M. Yardy, R. Sidebottom, J. Anderson, J. Tredwell, R. Bopara, A. Shahzad.

Match starts at 9 p.m. IST .

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