Aussies ready for showdown
Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes things are going his side’s way and there are no excuses for failing to reach their first ICC Champions Trophy final.
Victory over hosts India on Sunday coupled with England’s win over West Indies 24 hours earlier meant the Australians remained in Chandigarh for their semi-final clash with antipodean rivals New Zealand.
Having played in three different venues, it allowed the world champions two days’ preparation without the disruption of travelling.
As well as the knowledge of the Mohali surface gained in the six-wicket win at the weekend, Australia will be pleased with the identity of their opponents.
They have beaten the Kiwis in 15 of the past 17 meetings, although the most recent contest ended in defeat.
Had events transpired differently, South Africa - second in the world rankings - awaited in Jaipur.
“There are no excuses now for us,” Ponting said. “We’ve got a good team, we’ve got a full list of guys to pick from and we’re playing a semi-final at a venue that we’ve just played a game on.
“We can’t complain with the way things have worked out for us.”
The Champions Trophy is the one prize Australia have not won in world cricket, having been beaten in the semi-finals twice, most recently by England two years ago.
New Zealand came into this tournament on the back of a huge international break and have few Test assignments to plan for, which to Ponting means well-prepared opponents.
“They just really enjoy playing one-day cricket. They haven’t got much Test cricket coming up and they haven’t played much lately, so they’ve been gearing themselves for this sort of tournament,” he said.
“I think the conditions that we’re playing in here probably suit them a little bit as well.
“They are one of those sides who, because they have lots of all-rounder type players, tend to bat low, and they are bits-and-pieces sort of players who all chip in.
“Going back a few years ago in Australia, we had them four or five or six wickets down early on in most games and they managed to scratch their way through to a total of around 200 and then give it a good shake of defending it.
“They enjoy the challenge of playing against Australia and we see certainly enjoy the challenge of playing against them.”
Australia have employed a five-pronged pace attack to success in their past two matches and the likelihood of another good batting surface that offers pace and bounce when the ball is new is unlikely to promote change.
“If the wicket that we are presented with for the semi-final looks like the other ones, or even the one (on Sunday) then it’s probably unlikely that we will change our line-up,” Ponting said.
“It seems to be working pretty well for us. To have Mitchell (Johnson) and Brett (Lee) to be able to come back through the middle of the innings and take wickets is a bit of a key for us at the moment.
“We certainly like the bowling options there and, with (Shane) Watson opening the batting now, it gives us even more flexibility.”