Australia knows it can get better, says Ponting

2011-02-22 09:56

Ahmadabad, India – Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting is confident his defending champion Australians can play much better than they did against Zimbabwe in their opening match, warning title rivals that his squad has not yet found top gear at the World Cup.

Australia started with a 91-run win over the Zimbabweans at Sardar Patel Stadium yesterday, a performance Ponting described as solid, but not spectacular.

Ponting’s men came through a tricky opening period with the bat, where Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Ponting himself and Cameron White were all tied down by Zimbabwe’s spin bowlers on a slow, lifeless pitch.

The Australian captain said his squad was targeting an improved performance against New Zealand in its next Group A game on Friday, with the Black Caps also set to test the Aussies with world-class spinner Daniel Vettori.

“We know we have to improve and play better against New Zealand in a few days’ time,” Ponting said.

“We need to have our own game plans sorted out for better spinning attacks, there’s no doubt about that, and as the tournament goes on we are going to need to be on top of our game.

“We’re probably not quite there yet but the more we play and the more we become accustomed to these conditions then the better we will get.”

Australia has hinted it is likely to be a gradual climb to peak form at the tournament, but the four-time winner doesn’t mind starting slowly if it finishes strongly.

There were successive defeats in warm-up matches to India and South Africa and then a struggling start to its tournament campaign against Zimbabwe – where three-time defending champion Australians only managed 28 runs off its first 10 overs and only passed 200 in the 45th, before a late charge took it to 262-6.

“We will need to bat better against spinners as the tournament goes on,” Ponting said.

“(Against Zimbabwe) it was just about us getting in and getting used to the conditions and having a good, solid performance. There is some room for improvement.”

Ponting has backed his team to always “find a way to win” against spin bowling on the subcontinent, which teams have identified as a way to slow the champion’s formidable batting lineup.

Yesterday, opener Haddin stumbled to 29 from 66 balls and Ponting and White were subdued by Zimbabwe’s spin-heavy attack and failed to hit a boundary in their innings.

However, Watson and Michael Clarke battled back with half-centuries to lift Australia when it was needed most.

“We know the right way to play and we’ve had a great deal of success over here before, whether it be against India or in Sri Lanka. We’ve managed to play well and find ways to win games of cricket,” Ponting said.

There were no problems for Australia’s pace attack, though, as Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Brett Lee shared seven wickets and blasted out the Zimbabweans for 171.

Now with a winning start behind it, Ponting said he expected his team to get even better as the tournament moved on and they acclimatised to the conditions.

Even a relatively quiet period from White, a powerful boundary hitter for Australia in the middle order, hasn’t worried the skipper, who has confidence that White – and also the team’s – slow buildup and gradual adjustment may see them hit form at exactly the right time.

“I’m not worried about him (White) at all,” Ponting said. “He’s had an outstanding couple of years for us and he’ll work it out pretty quickly for himself.

“He thinks about his game particularly well and he’s got all the shots and the ability to take attacks apart. I think as the tournament goes on he needs a bit more time in the middle and a bit more confidence and you’ll see him develop.”

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