Big hitters ready to do battle

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The Independent Online
Two batsmen of contrasting styles but proven match-winning ability could be involved in a fascinating duel in the second World Cup semi- final in Chandigarh, India, tomorrow.

On one side there is Brian Lara, West Indies' sublime strokeplayer and the holder of the highest individual score for Test and first-class cricket. On the other is Mark Waugh, the Australian who has scored three centuries and the most runs in a World Cup tournament.

After a somewhat subdued start, Lara moved into top gear with a dashing half-century in West Indies' final group game against Australia. He then plundered the second-fastest World Cup century to take West Indies to victory against South Africa in the quarter-finals. His 100 took one ball more than Clive Lloyd's 82-ball century for West Indies in the 1975 final.

A few hours later, Waugh was not to be outdone. He hit a century as Australia beat New Zealand, although he needed 20 more balls than Lara to reach three figures. Waugh's 110 took his tournament aggregate to 472 in five matches - one more than the previous record, set by Graham Gooch in the 1987 World Cup.

Where Lara had attacked almost from the start against South Africa, Waugh blended caution with discreet strokeplay before finally opening up towards the end of his innings.

Each can be expected to play in his own fashion when the two sides meet tomorrow, but where Waugh has been supported by solid performances from Australia's other batsmen, the West Indian middle order has shown an alarming tendency to disintegrate. Failure by Lara would seem to leave West Indies vulnerable. Failure by Waugh is more likely to be compensated for by one of his team-mates.

Richie Richardson has made no secret of his wish to bow out as West Indies captain by winning the World Cup. He is delighted with the way his team have bounced back after what he described as the "nightmare" of losing to Kenya. "I think we have a good chance of winning the title now," he said.

Australia must be concerned about the quality of their bowling. The worry for Mark Taylor, their captain, must be that none of his bowlers maintained a consistent line and length against New Zealand.

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