India praying for presents from Pakistan

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The Independent Online

Favourites are falling like autumn leaves in the Champions Trophy. After the demise of the hotly tipped hosts South Africa, the team which was expected to push them all the way, India, could follow them out of the tournament today.

India's fate depends more or less entirely on the outcome of the tie between Australia and Pakistan. First, India must beat the West Indies, which looks to be an open-and-shut case, but they must beat them soundly, which is not. But that alone will be far from enough for Indian to progress to the semi-finals.

They rely on Pakistan beating Australia by a country mile to transform those two side's net run-rates. India's exit would show that even the most accomplished one-day side needs its stars to perform at their peak and they have missed Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan.

Australia have played solidly without setting the world alight and it may be that their players are weary after being away from home for so long. They have become increasingly reliant on the steadfast contributions of their captain, Ricky Ponting.

He may have much more work to do yet as well, since his vice-captain, Michael Clarke, was sent home yesterday with a lower back injury. Clarke has not played in the competition and was not responding to treatment. In any event it is unlikely both teams will be firing on all cylinders.

Whoever prevails in Monday's final, in a competition which has exceeded expectations, will have confounded bookmakers and pundits alike.