"Almost Over" shouts the headline on the front page of today's Age, reminding those who need reminding (which probably doesn't include any cricket followers) that the end of the 2007 World Cup is nigh.
I'd prefer to say that it's less than 12 hours to the start of the World Cup final at the refurbished Kensington Oval, Barbados .
Australia will start favourites, mainly because of their unbeaten record in the tournament so far, which has included a thumping of a less than full strength Sri Lanka a week ago. All their players have some form under their belts, their attack has sufficient variety to cope with a variety of conditions and they have the confidence that these things inspire. Sri Lanka also can claim to possess these advantages except for the small matter (as they'd probably see it following their strategic team selection then) of the loss to Australia.
Even if Australia don't perform at last week's level they've still a margin of safety. If they are to slip below this what might need to happen? The media consensus is that Muralitharan would have to turn in a ripper of a performance ("The world in his hands" says The Age), and that, to prevent this, Australia will aim to, as The Australian's headline puts it, "Annihilate Murali" . The Advertiser is relatively restrained compared to these assessments: its headline summing up the Australian strategy is " Blunt Lankans' spearheads". IMO this is much sounder, as at least two of the other SL bowlers ( Malinga and Vaas ) offer a combination of speed and guile and at their best could apply, or reapply, pressure on the Australians, either early in their innings, or later if they have to rein things in.
There's also the SL batting, which isn't as star studded as the Australian, but which has performed well, if not consistently well, throughout the tournament. Dilshan and Silva don't look as likely to set the world on fire as Clarke, Symonds and Hussey, but they are more than capable of supporting a Jayasuriya or a Jayawardene in full flight.
There's always the weather to consider, too. The forecast is for scattered showers with a maximum of 30 degrees. If the worst case eventuates and the Duckworth - Lewis method comes into calculations then the element of luck is likely to have more impact on the result. I hope it doesn't, but I also hope that each team plays more or less to its full potential. If that happens, and the rain keeps away, we should be in for a cracker of a game.
May the best team win.