Ponting grateful for the wise heads
"The criticism didn't affect me at all," he revealed matter-of-factly at the end of a thoroughly satisfying day. "To me it is all about how I feel I'm going. If I feel I'm progressing then that is all that matters. I came over here and also in Kuala Lumpur to improve each game I played. I have done that and I will keep doing that. By playing in this series and at Kuala Lumpur, I have put a piece of the puzzle together.
"It's feeling pretty good at this moment. I could improve still, but I was happy today. We have a few more games before the Ashes. We will hopefully have a good game on Sunday and when we then go to Australia, I shouldn't be too far away from being 100%."
Both captains had no doubt that McGrath's spell, one where he went straight through with 3 for 22 in 10 overs, made the difference. He added that giving McGrath the new ball in the last two games had definitely brought a spring in his stride. "I think every one of the guys will like to bowl with the new ball," Ricky Ponting admitted. "If I was a bowler, I would also like to be bowling with the new ball. We experimented a bit and in the conditions we played the other couple of games we thought the ball might swing more than do anything off the seam. He's not one of the biggest swingers of the ball but one of the best seamers around. Those were ideal conditions for him here. We have seen the form he is in at the moment. It's probably going to be hard to get the new ball out of his hand."
Despite starting the tournament on a sluggish note, both McGrath and Ponting had come good in the previous two knockout games. Ponting admitted that having men with experience had been the clinching factor. "The senior players in big tournament are crucial. You don't want to go into these sort of events with anyone in the team who hasn't played a few games. Big games are generally won by people who have been there and done it all before. If you look back to our last couple of World Cup campaigns, we had a really good mix of experience and youth around the squad. That is crucial as you saw tonight; the oldest player on the park comes out and wins the Man-of-the-Match award. He knew exactly what he had to do. He has done it all before and that is crucial to the team."
Ponting also didn't discount the efforts of Australia's other hero tonight, Andrew Symonds. He chipped in with a handy 58, just when New Zealand had fought back well into the game, and played a role with the ball as well. "He will be in my world XI every time," Ponting asserted. "He is a terrific one-day player and to walk out the way he did today and make the fifty was outstanding. It was exactly what we needed at that stage. He is the best fieldsman in the world as well."
Daniel Vettori's fighting fifty helped New Zealand stage some sort of revival but Ponting revealed that he wasn't overly worried at any stage. "I always felt comfortable we were going to win because the run-rate was creeping up all the time. Those guys had to take some risks but full credit to New Zealand for fighting all the way through. I told my boys this morning that to beat this side you have to knock them over because they bat down the order. Dan and Jacob [Oram] played beautifully and it got them somewhere back into the contest again but it was always going to be a miracle if they won. That is what you expect of New Zealand."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo