Ricky Ponting is confident Australia's pace attack can threaten every team in the World Cup, after they proved too good for Zimbabwe in the 91-run win at Motera on Monday. Australia have gambled on a bowling unit full of speed for this tournament and Mitchell Johnson took 4 for 19 in the opening victory, while Shaun Tait and Brett Lee also fired.
The Zimbabwe top-order batsmen were jumpy against Tait and Lee in particular, but the captain was most pleased by the accuracy of Johnson, who he believes can be one of the stars of the tournament. Although it's difficult to draw from that performance how Australia will fare against the stronger teams, Ponting is confident that no batsman will enjoy facing the trio.
"If we get those three up and running and bowling as well as they can, then I don't care what team we're playing against or what conditions we're playing in, that intimidation is going to be there," Ponting said. "Those three guys are pushing 150kph and with the conditions that we've seen, the ball's going to reverse at different times here as well.
"If we've got those three guys bowling well in reverse-swinging conditions, then it's going to be difficult. They can intimidate because they can use their short balls well. They generally don't give too much away either. If they're all bowling well, we'll go a long way in the tournament."
Ponting described Johnson's effort against Zimbabwe as one of the best spells he had seen from the left-armer in one-day cricket, and his two wickets in two overs early in the innings helped halt Zimbabwe's fight. Johnson has taken 32 ODI wickets at 21.25 in India and he is set to overtake Nathan Bracken as Australia's most successful bowler in the country.
Ponting believes that Johnson will succeed in the subcontinental conditions again, after an Australian summer in which it seemed like the bad old Mitchell Johnson was back to stay. But having been axed for the Adelaide Ashes Test, Johnson began to regain his form, and even before the Zimbabwe outing, the captain was confident he could be one of the key men in the World Cup.
"With the skill set he's got, he could be one of the players of the tournament, there's no doubt about that," Ponting said in the lead-up to the opening match. "We saw in the last couple of games in Australia how dangerous he can be with the bat. He went in as a pinch hitter in Sydney and got 50-odd for us there and changed the way the game was going.
"He went to Perth then, and probably bowled as well as he bowled for the whole summer, got 3 for 18 or something and got a few runs as well. He's in pretty good shape at the moment. He's got the chance to be one of the outstanding players in this tournament."
Australia left Doug Bollinger and John Hastings out of their series opener, and after the success of the attack it is unlikely there will be any changes for their second match against New Zealand. Jason Krejza also showed some promising signs against Zimbabwe, collecting 2 for 28, and should hold his place for Friday's game.