Ponting savours series turnaround
Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, has said his team's victory in the Chappell-Hadlee trophy, was a fitting response to the 3-0 defeat inflicted by New Zealand two years ago. The hosts, then, had won the first game comfortably by ten wickets before going on to chase 300-plus targets in the next two.
"It doesn't matter how many series you play but you always remember the last series you played, especially if it's a losing one," Ponting, who didn't play in that series, said. "That was just before the World Cup, and we were throroughly outplayed in that series and it led to people to write us off. We regrouped pretty well over there and obviously played well, and we've regrouped very well since we've been here."
Australia scaled down their revised target of 200 in 34 overs with almost three overs to spare, but the bulk of the hard work had been done by their bowlers, who hit back to bowl the hosts out for 238 after their openers had delivered a fiery start. Ponting, acknowledging the importance of change bowlers, lauded the performance of James Hopes and Nathan Hauritz, who shared five wickets to cripple the middle order and help consign New Zealand to a below-par score.
"I think that's pretty important out here," Ponting said. "On this sort of ground, the new ball flies off the wicket and off the bat at a pretty good pace. And that's what they [the New Zealand openers] did particularly well today, using the pace of our new ball bowlers really well, hit the boundaries and got the momentum going their way.
"Then when Hauritz and Hopes came into the game, it was a lot harder to score. It was harder to hit those boundaries, we restricted them, took those boundaries away and created chances which we took. We got on a bit of a roll then, the momentum was in our favour."
Australia won their third consecutive game of the series to clinch the trophy, and Ponting, who led his team to its eighth successive ODI series win, said the turnaround, after the defeat in the first game, was a result of attacking cricket. The hosts have been bowled out in each of the last three games.
"New Zealand got off to good starts in every game, it's sometimes hard to reverse momentum in one-day games but we've been able to do that really well," he said. "They got off to a fine start, we weren't very good with the ball early on, so we just kept attacking and set attacking fields. We told the bowlers to keep hitting the areas and if they continued to play the big shots, we'll take our chances and that's how it worked out.
"If you hit your spot and you challenge the batsmen to play big shots, or take risks to hit boundaries, then you have half a chance. The brand new ball didn't do that today, we gave them too many soft balls to hit to the boundary and once we tightened things up a bit and challenged them, that's when we were in the game a bit more.
"Our fielding, too, has improved throughout the series and once you've put them under the kind of pressure that we did today, it becomes really hard to get back into the game. Our wicket-taking ability in the middle has been the difference in the game."
The Duckworth-Lewis system came into play again, and this time it was Australia who were left chasing a stiff target despite dominating with the ball. Ponting admitted the revised score had given New Zealand an opportunity to fight back, though his batsmen secured the target comfortably. "It was a bit stiff, I actually thought it might have been wrong," Ponting said.
"I thought that was about 30 runs too many. It just goes to show that none of those equations are going to be perfect. We probably needed to be rewarded more for having bowled them out in 44 overs. But when you're chasing 200 in 34 overs on a ground like that - 200 in a T20 game is only a good score out here - we knew that if we didn't buy ourselves out of the water early and lose too many wickets early, we should be able to manage the chase.
"[Cameron] White played a very sensible and mature innings, and it was a good run-chase in the end."
Ponting hinted at changes for the final ODI in Wellington, and added the presence of experienced players in his side made his job easier despite the absence of Michael Clarke, who had to return to Australia for personal reasons. "It does present an opportunity to include some new names," Ponting said. "A couple of guys are a little sore after the game tonight. We'll see how they pull up in the morning. We'll look at giving McKay a go. We need to look ahead at the Test matches.
"I'm lucky to have people like Hussey and White, who have good cricket brains. . Although you've lost your vice-captain, there are plenty of experienced guys around. Little things like, I'd like to think, bring good teams closer."