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http://www.cricket.com.au/Global Items/Blogs/justin-langer/2012/10/4/dress-rehearsals

Justin Langer


Langer: The practice we needed

04 October 2012 2

Pakistan bowled their spinners for 18 of their allotted 20 overs Tuesday night. In any game of cricket this is quite an unprecedented statistic but for us it was no surprise.

For well over a year we have been preparing for exactly what we experienced.

We have speculated and made considered predictions that by the time the finals of this competition came around in early October, the pitches in Colombo would be low, slow and turning.  

Leading up to the tournament we had a training camp in Darwin.  

There, we instructed the guys at Northern Territory Cricket to prepare the driest, dustiest pitches possible, so that we could practice against spinning, shooting and jumping deliveries.  They provided us exactly what we asked for so that we would be ready, specifically, for this week's finals.

By the time we left Darwin, stage one of our preparation was complete.  Our planning was taking form.

Next we played and trained in the United Arab Emirates.  Again the conditions weren't ideal but they gave us an exceptional lead in.  Dubai and Sharjah were so hot it was like playing in a furnace and we went head to head with Pakistan who boast the best off spinner in the world, the genius Saeed Ajmal, and four other quality spinners.  

Stage two provided us with heat, humidity, spin and tough competition; we couldn't have laid a better foundation for this campaign.

Arriving in Colombo we felt like we were improving against spin, physically a lot fitter and confident that we could compete on this stage.

This we have done.  

starc 

And, we have more than just competed.  We have played really good T20 cricket throughout the qualifying stages and then the Super Eight stage.  After three games we ended up at the top of our division, ensuring we play the West Indies rather than Sri Lanka or Pakistan, who are masters of these conditions.  

Last night we didn't cover ourselves in glory, but hopefully the experience was a dress rehearsal of what we can expect in the semi-final.

We will be better for last night's run against Pakistan who play these conditions as well as any team in the world.

In terms of preparation for the finals, last night's loss was the penultimate stage of our planning.  Obviously we would have preferred to win, but a tough lesson by the Pakistani spinners could do us more good than harm.

We have now seen what we can expect from this tiring Premedasa surface.  No longer is it speculation or guess work.  We now know exactly what we will be playing on come Friday.

The West Indies, having just scraped through to the semi-final, were one of the favourites before the first ball of the competition was bowled.  

The last time we played them, in the first round of the qualifying leg, it was like playing in the land of the giants. Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Darren Sammy are huge men who hit the cricket ball like Tiger Woods hits a golf ball.  Alongside of them, Marlon Samuels is the coolest looking cricketer in the world, Johnson Charles hits the ball hard and far and Fidel Edwards is one of the fastest 'slingers' going around. 

They also have Sunil Narine who has made a name for himself over the last twelve months by dominating the IPL with his off-spinners and doosras.  He and leg spinner Samuel Badree, would have enjoyed watching last night's contest.  

The experience of having played Ajmal for the last six weeks, will provide our batsmen with more of an understanding of what to expect from the West Indian magician Narine.   The last time we played him in the West Indies earlier this year, he was a handful.  He will be respected.        

Another challenge presented by the West Indies is their incredibly athletic fielding ability.  For as long as I have been working with Steve Rixon, he has maintained that the best fielding sides are the most dangerous 20/20 teams.  His wealth of experience in coaching, and of late in the world of 20/20 cricket, has given him a clear insight of the importance of world class fielding.

It is no surprise that he works our players so hard in his pursuit of fielding excellence.  

If we are to beat the West Indies we will have to out-field them on Friday.  While this will be a huge task it is one worth getting excited about.  We may not have players who can move like Usain Bolt, as the West Indians do, but we do have guys who are well drilled and ready to take up the trial of fielding superiority in the final.

windies 

Playing the West Indies is always entertaining.  There is always lots of dancing and swaggering from our friends from the Carribean, but underneath the cool exterior will be plenty of nerves and doubts.  

This is a big game for both nations.  A few weeks ago we were being written off and criticized for our low ranking.  George Bailey said back then that we should be judged after this tournament, not on the basis of our intermittent T20 games throughout the year.

The criticism has been a base of inspiration and we now know that regardless of what happens on Friday we will be ranked at least fourth in the world.  My view was, and is, that the T20 rankings are fickle.  

The thought of being in an ICC T20 World final on Sunday is exciting and we will be doing everything to put the West Indies under enormous pressure from the first ball of the game.  Whether is is Chris Gayle facing

Mitchell Starc or Pat Cummins, or Shane Watson continuing his breath taking form with his odd couple partner Davie Warner, the scene will be set for a colourful and noisy final on Friday night.

It will take all eleven players to hold the cup, but after a year of planning and preparation they will be ready to go.

From Colombo,

Excited,

JL

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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