ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
Australia v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo
After the streak, Australia can get on with business
Now that the 34-match streak without a World Cup loss is over, Australia can go back to being just another team in the tournament, and their captain Ricky Ponting says they can learn from the loss
March 19, 2011
Not even Muhammad Ali boasted an unbeaten streak this great. It has taken 34 matches, but Australia have finally been defeated in a World Cup game for the first time since 1999. In that time, three titles were won, 15 different opponents were vanquished and 34 players were used to keep the sequence alive.
Nobody really expected it to last this long, and now that it has ended, Australia can go back to being just any other team in the tournament. That's no bad thing. Expectations are lowered, pressure is lifted and any lingering aura that surrounded the team will fade.
The captain, Ricky Ponting, never likes to lose but was pleased the streak finished in the group stage rather than the upcoming knockouts. And after a month on the subcontinent with barely a threat from any of their previous opponents, he hopes the loss to Pakistan will help his side as the business end of the tournament approaches.
"To be honest, I don't think the loss will hurt us at all," Ponting said. "I know for a fact the guys haven't been thinking about the winning streak at all because it hasn't been mentioned around our group or our change-rooms or meetings or anything. I think the fact that we've played a good Pakistan team and we've come up short will get all the guys thinking just exactly what they need to be thinking about and the way they need to play to win World Cup games.
"We've found ourselves in some tough situations today and we weren't good enough to get out of them. We have to learn from that, and we have to learn from that quickly, because if we play India in Ahmedabad, then you can guarantee the same situations are going to pop up again, and we'll have to handle them a whole lot better than we did today [Saturday]."
Ponting was one of only two men playing in the match who was also part of the last World Cup game Australia had lost. That was also a defeat at the hands of Pakistan, whose only remaining player from that 1999 line-up was Abdul Razzaq.
Shoaib Akhtar was also part of that side, but was overlooked for this game. As it turned out, Pakistan barely missed him. From the spin of Abdur Rehman, who opened the bowling, to the excellent swing bowling of Umar Gul, to the miserly offbreaks of Mohammad Hafeez, to the nagging seamers of Razzaq, Australia struggled against all of Pakistan's bowlers.
"We weren't able to rotate the strike anywhere near well enough off [Hafeez]," Ponting said. "He was the one who put the brakes on the most. When you've got a guy who's doing that at one end it does build up pressure, and generally when you build up pressure in one-day cricket is when teams can have batting collapses like we did today.
"You've got to give them credit for the way they bowled. We'll certainly learn from the experience today about what you have to do to play spin bowling well and how to rotate the strike a bit better."
Australia lost their last six wickets for 42 runs, and it left their bowlers with little to defend. Brett Lee did his best to drag Australia bag into the contest with two new-ball wickets and a pair in consecutive deliveries in his second spell, but he had little support.
That's one thing Australia will need to rectify before their quarter-final, which will be against India in Ahmedabad, unless West Indies upset India on Sunday. If that is the case, Australia would most likely head to Dhaka to take on West Indies.
Wherever they end up, they will be starting afresh after their first loss in 34 games. They'll settle for a three-match winning streak to end the tournament.
Mustafizur, Mosaddek, Mehidy, Nazmul - where did they all come from? By Mohammad Isam
Mark Nicholas: England's recklessness in the name of positivity is a sign that the art of batting in the longest format is no longer given due attention
Imran Yusuf ponders an age-old question
The Cricket Monthly
On tour in the UK, Firdose Moonda witnesses a fine comeback, visits the country's oldest pub, and squeezes in some yoga lessons