They have both proved they are a notch above the rest at the Mission Foods Asian Netball Championship. But when hosts Singapore and Sri Lanka meet in today's final, neither is expecting the lopsided matches they have been involved in so far.
Said Singapore captain Lin Qingyi, who played a starring role in the defending champions' 46-39 victory over Causeway rivals Malaysia in the semi-final yesterday: "Sri Lanka are not going to let us have it easy in the final.
"It was a painful one-point loss for them against us in the last championship (2012) on their home ground and they will be eager to make amends for that."
But while Sri Lanka, who defeated Hong Kong 57-42 in the other semi-final yesterday, is also expecting a keen battle, they believe they have the edge for two reasons.
"They took the championship from our hands at home in 2012 so this final is more than just about winning a title," said Sri Lanka captain Shashika Samarasinghe. We'll be going out to avenge that loss by winning it on their home soil."
Perhaps the bigger reason behind their confidence is the threat posed by 2.06m goal shooter Tharjini Sivalingam.
Said Sri Lanka assistant coach Yamuna Sandamali: "She's already 10cm taller than their tallest defender (1.96m goalkeeper Chen Lili) so when she stretches her hand out to get the ball, they will lose out."
Not only does Tharjini has a height advantage over the Singaporean defenders, she is also on a hot streak of goal-scoring form so far. The Sri Lankan goal shooter is the top scorer in the championship with 267 goals so far, with an average conversion accuracy rate of over 92 per cent.
If the hosts needed an inspiration ahead of today's showdown, they got it yesterday with a terrific defensive display against Malaysia.
The defensive combination of Lin and Premila Hirubalan did well to stifle the visitors' top scorer Norashikin Kamal Zaman. After having 50 chances against Sri Lanka, she was restricted to just 37 attempts in total against Singapore thanks to an elaborate game plan by national coach Ruth Aitken.
"We knew the Malaysians fancied a system of short and quick passes so our girls in mid court were told to apply constant pressure on them whenever they had the ball," said Lin. "This forced them to go long in their passing towards Norashikin, which Premila and I dealt with comfortably due to our aerial ability," she added.
Added Aitken: "We felt that Premila and Lin's elevation would be useful against Shikin, which was what we needed when the Malaysians went for long passes.
"Lin reads the game well from the back... while Premila likes to move around the defensive third so that combination was what we felt would work the best against Malaysia."
Although Aitken did not disclose if she will send out the same team and system that did well against Malaysia for the final, she believes her charges can do well in the final, which also guarantees both sides a spot in next August's Netball World Cup in Sydney.
"Our girls are skilful so it's just getting them to be clear of their roles based on the game plan we have for Sri Lanka," said Aitken. "The final will be a real exciting game of netball."
This article was first published on Sep 14, 2014.
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