Australia's tournament has begun with a 50-run win over a depleted West Indies, but Ricky Ponting was the first to admit that the outcome was not entirely convincing. Australia needed Mitchell Johnson's late-hitting to lift them from 171 for 7 and then, in the field, conceded a shocking 36 extras on a pitch Ponting termed as "inconsistent".
"They [West Indies] gave it a really good shake. They had the better of the conditions, no doubt about it," Ponting said after the game. "One thing you know about the West Indies is that they are always going to play pretty entertaining and exciting cricket. They stuck to their task pretty well."
Australia's batsmen had their work cut out against a seam attack that found substantial movement on a pitch of variable bounce. Shane Watson was bowled first ball after which Ponting and Tim Paine put on 85 to steady matters, but a further wobble left Australia in trouble when Johnson was joined by Brett Lee in the 40th over. Ponting admitted the conditions intermittently got the better of Australia.
"It seamed a lot in the morning, which we knew it would," he said. "We would have bowled first had we won the toss. It was particularly hard work early on. It was a difficult wicket so to get that sort of total was good going. The batsmen did a pretty good job and Mitch finished things off pretty well for us and those runs proved vital in the game.
"It [the pitch] was inconsistent in its bounce. Paine got hit in the gloves a whole lot more than I did, five or six times I guess. It was hard work but we got through it. We were one down through about 20 overs, which was a good start. But we lost wickets at pretty regular intervals but Mitch and Brett got us a pretty good total."
When West Indies came out to the bat the pitch was truer than it had been earlier in the day, leaving Ponting feeling like the two sides played on entirely different tracks. "It did a little bit for us as well I guess, it was probably just a little bit easier bounce-wise," he said. "We probably expected it to do a little bit more. The bowlers probably got a little bit carried away. A few too many extras, but otherwise I thought we stuck to our task pretty well."
After the Ponting-Paine stand at the top, Johnson's 70-run association with Lee for the eighth wicket was only the second substantial partnership of the innings. In the end it proved enough. "You never make good one-day totals without good partnerships," said Ponting. "We always talk about having good partnerships at the top so Paine and I got us off to a reasonable start even though we found it difficult in the middle, when it seamed and swung for pretty much the entire innings, even when [David] Bernard came back late the ball was still swinging quite a bit. I thought we did a really good job to get that sort of total on that wicket."
Despite the threat posed by West Indies' half-centurions, Andre Fletcher and Travis Dowlin, Australia overcame their extras jitters by snuffing out the lower order. "I thought we did well closing out some of the final overs," said Ponting. "That's been a bit of an Achilles heel for us over the years so to see that done well was pleasing."
Johnson, the Man of the Match, said batting was "pretty enjoyable" but singled out Ponting and Paine's partnership as the key phase in the Australian innings. "It gives you a bit of confidence, definitely. It was quite hard early when I got out there but Ricky just said 'take your time, get yourself in'. I did that, I came in around the 36th over I think and I took my time before belting a few at the end. Ricky and Paine did well at the top but the ball probably was not seaming around as much when I got out there."
Australia vs West Indies
ICC Champions Trophy