Ponting backs bowlers to come good in final
Ricky Ponting has insisted that his bowlers will hit top form in this weekend's NatWest Series final against England after they let Bangladesh off the hook on Thursday. In the last group game of the tournament, Australia were set for a convincing win after reducing Bangladesh to 75 for 5. But Bangladesh, who'd stunned the cricket world 12 days earlier by beating Australia by five wickets in Cardiff, batted out their 50 overs on the way to posting a competitive 250 for 8.
Australia eventually got home with 11 balls to spare with Michael Clarke (80 not out) and Andrew Symonds (42 not out) securing a six-wicket win. But while Bangladesh may not have had enough bowling to make the most of their batsmen's recovery, England possess the likes of Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones.
"We probably made harder work of it than we should have," Ponting admitted after Thursday's match. "We've bowled better at England in a couple of games than we have against Bangladesh. Bigger games tend to bring the best out of this team and certain players in our team and I think that has been proven over a long period of time so today will be forgotten about."
In the meantime Ponting will hope his attack can to stop the extras that have blighted their tournament thus far. On Thursday they conceded 23 extras including 14 wides and no-balls - the equivalent of more than two extra overs.
Australia and England have beaten each other once apiece in the tournament with a wash-out at Edgbaston. "We've just got to get back to thinking about the basics of the game and our plans that we will have for the English batsmen," Ponting continued. "Not knowing a lot about some of the individual players in the Bangladesh side sometimes makes it a little bit harder to set fields and have certain plans. We'll probably have better plans for the England players when we get to play against them."
But he admitted he was concerned about the bowling extras. "The no-ball thing we see as being almost totally unacceptable in our side. It's the most zero tolerance type of thing in our team. We have bowled a few of those in the last couple of games and I know the bowlers are working extremely hard to try and ensure they don't bowl them."
In the meantime he said Bangladesh had provided the ideal workout in what was a dead match with England and Australia already in the final. "To be able to chase 250 won't do us any harm anyway, to be under a bit of pressure at 83 for 3 was good for us and will hold us in good stead for Saturday."
While England will have had several days of rest leading up to the final since their last group game on Sunday, Australia will have had a far more congested schedule. "It will have been a tough run for us going into this final with three games in five days," Ponting said. "But we will have a relaxing day on Friday, get all our plans sorted out, hit the ground running on Saturday and hopefully perform at our best."