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Ponting backs depleted attack

NatWest Series

Australia

Ricky Ponting led Australia to a 6-1 NatWest Series victory against England last year, but he is expecting a tougher challenge this time

Australia must take on England minus their first-choice bowling attack because of injury, but Ricky Ponting is confident they will be ready to rise to the challenge of the NatWest Series.

Ponting will try to blunt England’s new-found commitment to fearless attack in limited-overs cricket with a clutch of pace bowlers led by Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris in the absence of Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee et al.

The captain concedes his team may be up against it to follow up previous 50-over victories over England, including 6-1 in last year’s NatWest Series and by nine wickets in the Champions Trophy semi-final in South Africa.

But he is confident there is enough mettle in his squad to make sure Australia push England hard.

“We pride ourselves in our depth of squad and the attitude we show when we play for Australia,” he said.

“We have managed to win some very good series in adversity, particularly the India tour win 12 months ago when we were down to our bones as far as players are concerned.

“When we are faced with a bit of adversity, the guys normally put their hands up and leap to a new level.

“I dare the players to surprise us with performances. The attitude around the team is to stretch yourself and do something special when it is needed.”

Australia are in danger of allowing England to establish themselves as superior in all three international formats, having lost their most recent encounters in Test and Twenty20.

Ponting, however, does not subscribe to the concept of winning or losing momentum and has therefore lost no sleep over Australia’s defeat against England in last month’s World Twenty20 final in Barbados.

Paul Collingwood captained England against Michael Clarke’s Australia in that game and Ponting, up against Andrew Strauss as his opposite number this time, said: “I am not a huge believer in momentum carrying over from series to series.

“We have a large changeover of players from the Twenty20. It is up to us to play the cricket we know we can.”

Ricky Ponting

Ponting has been pleased with his team's spirit in training, despite the injury woes that have affected Australia's preparation

Ponting is mindful of the inexperience in the Australia attack, but remains optimistic.

“We have a new attack to English conditions,” he said. “The guys that bowled over here last year are not here.

“We’ve had our ups and downs as far as injuries are concerned but that gives the chance to other guys and what they have done so far has been first class.”

Ponting dismissed Collingwood’s insistence that England will be out to put the tourists under pressure from the outset, at a venue where a comprehensive Twenty20 home victory in 2005 appeared to set the tone for a surprise Ashes success.

“I would expect them to be aggressive in every game they play,” he said.

“Why would you want to come out aggressively in one game and not another? I think that’s just words, it does not mean anything.

“It is about the level of cricket you bring to the table when it matters. We’ll be ready for that.

“I have spoken to the players about being put under pressure. The England guys are good one-day batters, and there will be times when they will play shots and we have to respond to that.”

On a personal level, Ponting is likely to be reminded quickly of his apparent anti-hero status in England.

Crowds repeatedly booed him throughout last summer’s Ashes but, as he prepares for what will be the 3,000th one-day international since the format was introduced almost 40 years ago, he made it clear he can handle the hostility again if necessary.

“I don’t expect any more love than last time,” he added. “I do enjoy a bit of inter-action with the crowd.

“The worst thing you can do as a player is get uptight about it and I have been around long enough to know that you are going to receive a hostile reception at different times around the world.

“It didn’t worry me one bit during the Ashes, it probably made me want to play better to shut a few of them up.”

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