Our best win of the tournament - Ponting
The cool and absolute demolition of South Africa was judged by Ricky Ponting as Australia's best win of the tournament and ominously enough for Sri Lanka and all the millions of underdog-backers in the world, he felt their best was still to come.
"To bowl them out for that total on that wicket - and South Africa are a very, very good cricket team - it was definitely our best performance," Ponting said with a serene beam. "But we still have some improvement to come in the game to come. Generally when the big games come around the Australian team stands up."
From the opening minutes of the match, when Graeme Smith was pressured into losing his wicket, there was little respite for the South Africans. If Ponting confessed to having had mixed feelings about the toss yesterday, it was no less clear this morning. In the final analysis it could not have worked out better.
"It was always going to be a crucial toss with the wicket looking pretty dry at the start," he said. "It could have been pretty slow later on. I thought 5 for 27 was a terrific start to the game. Bracks [Nathan Bracken] got us an early wicket again. Glenn [McGrath] does what he does most times when he's given the new ball. It was a dream start. They were under pressure from the first over of the day, which is what I expected the guys to be able to do."
Was he surprised by South Africa's shot selection in the morning? "They wanted to come out there really aggressive and put their noses in front and get some momentum their way," he said. "Sometimes in one-day cricket that comes off, some other times it doesn't. I must admit going that hard early was exactly what we wanted them to do.
"Their openers have played that way all through the tournament. Smith in particular has been very, very aggressive. We just bowled well, did things really well. Glenn's ball to get Kallis was a beauty. If he's going to go down the track and back away then what better ball to bowl than a yorker on off stump. Once we got on a roll we were hard to stop. Taity [Shaun Tait] coming on and getting a few wickets was terrific for us."
Whether it was a case of benevolence in victory or not, Ponting desisted from using the c-word. Indeed, he claimed: "I've never used that word in my life to tell the truth and I won't. They were outplayed by a better team, as simple as that. One-day cricket can be like that some times. There's been a lot of talk about mental scars, having lost games to us in the past, maybe that was playing on their minds, but I'm not going to sit here and call them chokers."
Unsurprisingly a lot of talk revolved around the effect of Australia's utter domination of the competition, which seemed to amuse the captain. "It's funny, it's only a few weeks ago I was sitting here and answering questions about how open this World Cup appeared to be and how much more open it was than any other," he said.
|This group is very excited going into the final game and being ready for what's going to be one of the most enjoyable days of our lives Ricky Ponting|
"We're doing a lot of things really well at the moment, whether we're doing it better than any of the other teams in the last World Cup I don't know. But I know this current group is very excited going into the final game and being ready for what's going to be one of the most enjoyable days of our lives."
Enough little games have been played out between Sri Lanka and Australia before the big day on Saturday. Mahela Jayawardene pulled a cute stunt in the Super Eights and Ponting thereafter spent time saying it was Sri Lanka who lost a chance to get ahead.
"I thought they had a bit of a chance to make a statement against us in the last game," he said, "and they chose not to by resting three of their best bowlers." "They're a good team, no doubt about that, and they played some very good cricket yesterday. I really like the match-up of Australia v Sri Lanka. But all that we've done in the last seven weeks, to win our games as comprehensively as we have, that gives us a lot of confidence. The wicket in Barbados has a bit of pace and bounce. That should play into our hands beautifully.
"We're going to be doing nothing different from what we've done all tournament. If you talk about going out and hitting a hundred off 70 balls, if you put that sort of pressure on yourself you're not going to succeed. If you let your skills take over you will. That's the way we've been talking in this tournament. To tell the truth we won't even be talking about winning the final - we're going to be talking about preparing well to give ourselves a chance to play a good game."
Rahul Bhattacharya is author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04