ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

Australia v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo

Ponting eager for Pakistan test

Brydon Coverdale in Colombo

March 18, 2011

Comments: 24 | Text size: A | A

Ricky Ponting has a bowl in the nets, Bangalore, March 10, 2011
The Pakistan game, Ricky Ponting has said, will give Australia a better indication of where they stand © Associated Press
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A delayed flight, a midnight arrival at their hotel in Colombo and one afternoon training session on Friday might seem like a rushed preparation for Australia's match against Pakistan on Saturday. In fact, their build-up has been anything but hurried. Ricky Ponting's men have spent more than a month travelling around India and Sri Lanka, but in between rounds of golf and elephant rides, they've hardly got out of second gear on the field.

So far, they haven't needed to, and they enter Saturday's game unbeaten and with first place in Group A there for the taking. Wins over Zimbabwe and a lacklustre New Zealand were followed a fortnight later by victories against Kenya and Canada. At times their opponents have surprised them with fireworks but overall it has been a slow burn, dampened by the wash-out against Sri Lanka, which was poised to be their first major challenge.

Meanwhile, Pakistan have spent a month in Sri Lanka, stumbling once when Ross Taylor took a liking to the short boundaries in Pallekele, but otherwise steering themselves through to the quarter-finals with relative comfort, including a win over the home team. All that this match will determine is who Pakistan and Australia face in their first knockout game, and whether they play it in Colombo, Dhaka or Ahmedabad. But it will also give Ponting an indication of where his men sit.

"We really do start to feel that the tournament is kicking off now," Ponting said. "We've had our games along the way and the other big game we had in our pool matches was the game against Sri Lanka, which was washed out, unfortunately. We've been really excited about playing this game against Pakistan for quite a while.

"During those longer breaks, we've trained exceptionally hard and trained very, very well. We just haven't had the continuity we would have liked with our games. But we got a couple of good results in Bangalore last week. At this stage we're the only undefeated team in the tournament, which is nice for us, but I think we'll get a better feel tomorrow at the end of the game for just where we're at and how well we're placed in this World Cup."

The Australians will fancy their attack against Pakistan, who have been bowled out for 184 by Canada and 192 by New Zealand in their past three games. But the big challenge will be overcoming a Pakistan bowling group led by Umar Gul, with his swinging yorkers, and the captain Shahid Afridi, who is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.

The last time the teams met in an ODI, Afridi stuck the ball in his mouth. This time, he'll be looking for bite off the pitch and at the Premadasa, where even Steven Smith was turning the ball sharply before the rain came against Sri Lanka, Afridi could be a handful.

"He has been the standout bowler, wickets-wise, in the tournament so far," Ponting said. "He tends to control the middle of their bowling innings particularly well. He doesn't go for a lot of runs, either, which is probably the main reason he's taken the amount of wickets that he has. He builds up pressure, and if he builds up pressure from his end you can guarantee that the guy at the other end is more likely to strike and take wickets as well. That was one of the big things we spoke about this morning, making sure we play him well.

"They've got a number of match-winning players in their team. If you look through their better-performed player through the tournament so far, you'd look at Afridi and Gul as the two guys who have been their standout players. We know we're going to have to play those guys well tomorrow if we want to win the game. They're a dangerous side. They proved that last time they played Sri Lanka here at this venue, how good a side they can be."

Pakistan were also the last team to beat Australia in a World Cup match, at Headingley in 1999, and Ponting's men have now extended their streak to 34 games without a loss. Making it 35 will be their toughest challenge so far in this tournament, but after a month in second gear, they'll be pleased to finally put the foot down.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

Comments: 24 
Posted by PAKricket on (March 19, 2011, 21:53 GMT)

my sympathies for all AUS supporters on losing tha match against pak :D

Posted by   on (March 19, 2011, 7:39 GMT)

@jonesy2 .. Smith might turn it more than Afridi but he cant turn it the other way, neither does Smith have as much variation as Afridi does. Afridi's quicker one being the most dangerous!

Posted by Tansah on (March 19, 2011, 7:29 GMT)

Pakistan will only win if they play for the team. If they do that then the Aussies have no chance. Shame that Afridi hasn't done anything with the bat yet. Is he waiting for the Final or something?

Posted by MrJackST on (March 19, 2011, 4:11 GMT)

Go Australia!! I am looking forward to seeing where we stand against quality opposition.

Posted by   on (March 19, 2011, 4:01 GMT)

To all the Pakistani supporters, which team will turn up? One with pride or one with dubious intent. In any case, Pakistan will have to play at their absolute best to be competitive, they were pathetic against the Kiwis. I think Australia will expose the mental fragility of the Pakistan players, who all seem to have different agendas. I know Australia havent' been truly tested yet, but Pakistan have and came up well short of the Kiwis.Who Australia embarrassed. Australia by 46 runs. Looking forward to seeing the AKMAL circus in full swing, what will they do next????

Posted by   on (March 19, 2011, 3:26 GMT)

well bad news for pakistan is that afridi has announced his future plans regarding a. rehman that he will be in the team to "STRENGTHEN BATTING LINE UP".....! WHAT A MESS IS THIS WHILST A.RAZZAQ IS PLAYING AT NO. 8 HE IS STILL WORRYING ABOUT BATTING. BEING AN AGGRESSIVE PLAYER AFRIDI AND A LEGENDARY FAST BOWLER ,WAQAR; THEY BOTH ARE DESTROYING THE CHANCES OF PAK WINNING THE WORLD CUP BY DESIGNING A DEFENSIVE STRATEGY. AND BY THE TIME THEY KNOW IT THAT WILL BE ALL

Posted by   on (March 19, 2011, 2:46 GMT)

These are two stand out teams that both deserve to win. This should be one of the matches of the tournament. I can't wait.

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (March 19, 2011, 1:00 GMT)

Australian pace attach might be in trouble here- One has to understand that Pakistani batsmen actually like faster bowlers and especially ones with the express pace. Pakistan have himself got Umer Gul and Wahab who consistentlt bowl in 145's and Gul is now even pushing to 150's while good old Shoib Akhtar is still among the fastest. What really troubles Pakistani batsmen is seam movement. Indian batsmen on other hand are all around poor players of fast bowling and in all fairness, it is because India has no express fast bowlers. You are as good as you play in the nets. Brett Lee has an average record against Pakistan and in few ODI's he has been gone for heaps against Pakistan. Another example is Dale Steyn who has a complete hold over indians but against Pakistan, he is pretty average. Couple of years back in a SA series, Pakistani batsmen took him for aorund 100 in 10 overs while they scored 352. Toss will be a key factor around here! Eitherway, SL is best team so far!

Posted by   on (March 19, 2011, 0:48 GMT)

I would play Junaid Khan, he is young, wants to prove at this stage, unknown for Australians. he can do a surprise for Pak as the third waicket taking bowler.

Posted by AussieFan on (March 19, 2011, 0:30 GMT)

The last time Australia lost a World Cup match (23 May, 1999), Steven Smith was nine years old!

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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