Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, 9th match, Melbourne February 22, 2008

Ponting's rut grows deeper with run out

Michael Hussey: "The pitch was really slow, very hard to get your timing and to penetrate the field" © Getty Images

Australia secured their place in the CB Series finals with their win over Sri Lanka but the match was another one Ricky Ponting will want to wipe from his personal highlights reel. Ponting managed 11 from 34 balls to take his tournament tally to 64 at 10.66 and he even found a new way to sabotage himself, run out when he tried to take a single after hitting the ball back to the bowler.

"When you're in a bit of a rut like I am you tend to find ways of getting out," Ponting said. "I was just trying to get myself in and get used to the pace of the wicket today."

Ponting nudged the ball back in the direction of Farveez Maharoof, who dived across to his right and threw to the wicketkeeper's end to have Ponting caught short in his ambitious attempt to keep the scoreboard ticking. However, he was confident it was not a case of bad judgment.

"I called straight away," he said. "I actually expected Michael [Clarke] to run over the top of the line of the ball when he was following through, so the bowler wouldn't have been able to get to the ball. Michael held his ground and the bowler dived and got it, and I had to try and scurry back."

It was a disappointing end as Ponting desperately sought time in the middle to end his slump. The bowlers are being given breaks - Mitchell Johnson will be rested from Sunday's game in Sydney as Brett Lee returns - and Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, also offered Ponting some time off. However, the captain said he felt the only way to turn his form around was on the field.

The pitches that have been dished up throughout the CB Series have not helped either, and the slow MCG surface was particularly difficult. "That's had a little bit to do with some of the low scores right through the series so far," Ponting said. "You can't just say it's been bad batting all the time because if we're batting bad and we're winning games it says the opposition have been the same."

Michael Hussey, who was named Man of the Match for an unbeaten 64 which included one boundary, said it was one of the hardest ODI innings he has played. "The pitch was really slow, very hard to get your timing and to penetrate the field," Hussey said. "But then the odd one would really take off. When I came off at 184 I thought we had a total we could defend in those conditions."

Sri Lanka's batsmen had no more luck than Australia and Kumar Sangakkara occupied the crease for 103 minutes for his 22. Sri Lanka need to win both their remaining games and have Australia beat India on Sunday to have any chance of reaching the finals, and Sangakkara said they had not given up.

"We've made it quite difficult for ourselves over the whole tournament," Sangakkara said. "We've been making the opposition look a bit better than they really are.

"We've got two more games to regroup and take something positive from this tournament and if we win both games, you never know. That's going to be our immediate target: regroup, reassess and then go out there and try and win the next game in Hobart."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo