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Ponting wants batsmen to improve against spin

Ricky Ponting returned from injury in good touch with a half-century AFP

Ricky Ponting has said that Australia's batsmen will have to step up their game if they are to win the World Cup after their dramatic collapse in the warm-up match against India in Bangalore. Chasing 215 to win, Australia were 118 for 1 at one stage, but the middle order disintegrated in stunning fashion to be shot out for 176 on a turning track.

Ponting blamed the "under-prepared" pitch for the batting debacle. "It was an unusual ODI wicket, I don't remember the last one-day wicket I've played on that spun that much," Ponting said after the 38-run loss. "You have to find a way sometimes to combat good spin bowling on tough conditions like that. Who knows as the tournament goes on, we could face conditions like that somewhere else, and I would like to think that we can play a lot better. Otherwise, we can't win. Hopefully some of the younger guys in the middle order can learn a little bit about starting in tough conditions."

Australia lost their last nine wickets for 58 runs but Ponting said he wasn't overly concerned as he felt the pitch made batting an arduous task. "Yes, we were disappointing and should have played better, but by the same token even the Indian batsmen would have found it difficult to bat in those conditions. I have played a lot of one-day cricket here in India and Sri Lanka, but I don't think I have ever played in an ODI game with so much spin. We only arrived here two days back and will get more practice as things move on."

Though Australia's batsmen wilted, their seamers, led by the impressive Brett Lee, turned in a good show to restrict India. They also conceded 25 wides but Ponting said that the bowlers know their job. "It's unacceptable to bowl that many wides in one-dayers but the bowlers know that, we know that. Lee and Mitchell Johnson were terrific, John Hastings bowled very well and we still should have chased that many runs. We were 1 for 100 when Tim [Paine] and I were in ..."

Ponting also spoke about his spinners and how he plans to use them in the World Cup. They rested Steve Smith and played Jason Krejza yesterday, but Ponting assured that Smith will be one of the key players for Australia in the tournament. "Smith will definitely bowl a lot of overs in the tournament. Jason Krejza will learn from his outing today, [Michael] Clarke can bowl when needed but Smith will play a lot." Cameron White, the other batsman who can bowl some spin, has already admitted he is no longer an allrounder and will play as a pure batsman. "Just lost a bit of confidence as a bowler to be honest," White said. "I am just concentrating on my batting and enjoying that role."

Ponting's batting was one of the major positives to emerge for Australia. He made 57 before becoming the seventh wicket to fall, stumped after missing a slog sweep against Harbhajan Singh. Ponting had suffered a finger injury during the Ashes and didn't play in the seven-match ODI series against England. In the absence of Michael Hussey, there will be immense pressure on Ponting to deliver and he was happy that he could spend some time in the middle. "My fingers are ok. It was nice to spend 80-odd minutes in the middle. It was my first game in six weeks. I certainly wasn't at my best but it was difficult out there and I should be better for the outing.

"I have to be a consistent run-scorer. I certainly wasn't that in the summer. It was nice to get some runs but it doesn't count for much. The runs I score in the bigger games will be important. I am feeling good; I have worked as hard as I can since my finger surgery. I feel good with my body and felt good with my batting tonight. Hopefully I can get some more runs in the next warm-up game and carry that form through the tournament."