Australia v West Indies, ICC World Twenty20, Group C, The Oval June 6, 2009

Australia still not at home in newest format

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If their annihilation at the long, strong and swinging hands of Chris Gayle is anything to go by Australia, the top team in the game's other two formats, are still not at home in the newest avatar - and now face the real prospect of exiting the tournament in 48 hours' time. Their hopelessness on Saturday was summed up by Brett Lee, their strike bowler whose four overs went for 56 runs, one of the most expensive in World Twenty20 history. When he finally had some success, getting Gayle caught in his final over on 88, his wry smile told the whole story.

Australia have lost the last four of their seven Twenty20 internationals this year. So where's it all going wrong for them? Ricky Ponting simply said they weren't doing "well enough" but he did admit that they lost today's game in the first over of either innings, an aspect of play that had been stressed on in the pre-match team meetings.

Jerome Taylor gave West Indies a resounding start by dismissing Shane Watson and Ponting in the space of two deliveries in the first over of the match. Then, Gayle made sure his side began on a positive note by knocking two fours in Lee's first over, which went for 10 runs.

"We were just a bit sloppy. Coming into game we had spoken about making sure we get the first over of each innings right but, as it turned out, we lost early two wickets while batting and gave away a lot off our first over as well," Ponting said after the defeat. "The game being as short as this you can't afford to give the momentum away early on."

Ponting did, however, come out in support of his strike bowler. Lee hadn't featured for Australia since January and only returned last month after an ankle surgery. This was his second international game since then but Ponting appeared happy with his comeback. "His practice match form was extremely good. He got taken a bit today but the sort of form Chris [Gayle] was in he couldn't do much."

Unlike their Ashes opponents England, who admitted to having taken the Dutch lightly in the inaugural game yesterday, Ponting said he always was wary of West Indies. "We didn't underestimate anybody. We know how dangerous they can be in this format."

Ponting was in the team hotel when the Dutch were scripting their historic victory at Lord's, but said he was in no position to have a laugh. "I did hear a bit of cheering coming from my floor in the hotel [after the Dutch victory]. I'm not sure who it was. It doesn't matter now, does it? We're in exactly the same boat. We've just got to win on Monday," Ponting said.

Australia, West Indies and Sri Lanka are in the group of death and today's loss means Australia must beat Sri Lanka. Even then they may have to sweat out till next Wednesday, when Sri Lanka take on West Indies, to work out the net run-rate - West Indies achieved their victory with 4.1 overs to spare and that adds pressure on Ponting and his men.

If there is any relief for Ponting it is that the Australians started in similar vein in the inaugural edition of the tournament, in South Africa two years ago, when they lost to Zimbabwe by one run in their first game. "We were in exactly the same position last time. We faced England and Sri Lanka two years ago to make the semis," Ponting said with a smile.

Ponting says he is clear about the road ahead. "It [a Twenty20 match] can change very quicky in one ball to another, one over to another. We know what our job now is: beat Sri Lanka and beat them well." If they fail to do that the Australians will need to pack their bags for an unscheduled early arrival at Leicester. Ponting is clearly not willing to settle for that.

"We'd have about two weeks in Leicester if we have an early exit here, and that won't be great for anybody," Ponting said with a smile. "I haven't even thought about that yet. Hopefully we're good enough and we play well enough to make sure we're in the next stage."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo