Ponting takes responsibility
Captain Ricky Ponting guided Australia to a seven-wicket victory over New Zealand in their World Twenty20 warm-up match at The Oval.
Ponting hit 56, instigating a recovery after the loss of two early wickets disrupted Australia's progress.
James Franklin’s double-wicket maiden in the fifth over evened up the contest after New Zealand were dismissed for 147.
But Ponting, whose half-century spanned only 34 deliveries, combined with vice-captain Michael Clarke in a match-turning stand of 104 for the third wicket.
Although Australia left themselves needing 88 off the final 10 overs, they paced the chase perfectly from that point on, with Ponting’s six over long-off just after the halfway stage of the innings altering the momentum in his side’s favour.
When he launched another maximum, off Scott Styris in the 13th over, it meant Australia only required eight an over from the final seven.
The required rate had been whittled down to a run a ball by the time Ponting holed out to spinner Daniel Vettori late on.
Clarke finished unbeaten on 49, while Andrew Symonds clipped the winning runs through the leg side in the final over.
New Zealand’s total was below par on a good surface, but the dismissals of Shane Watson and David Warner, both to aggressive strokes at Franklin, altered the tempo of the match.
That the Black Caps remained competitive was a credit to their fighting spirit after Australia’s anticipated Ashes pace attack decimated their top order.
Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson combined to devastating effect with the new ball as Vettori’s team, who defeated India yesterday, slumped to 21 for five.
Lee removed dangerman Brendon McCullum with the third ball of the innings and only conceded seven runs from his first three overs.
Left-armer Johnson, meanwhile, claimed two wickets in his opening over as his pace unsettled the Kiwis.
When Mitchell’s direct hit from mid-off ran out Jacob Oram, who had not faced a ball, the New Zealanders had lost half their side and their eventual total was a long way off.
They got there thanks to a thrilling stand of 71 for the sixth wicket between Styris and Peter McGlashan.
It was terminated by the return of Johnson into the attack when Styris’ spree of 24 from eight balls was followed by an edge behind off a wide delivery.
McGlashan, the reserve wicketkeeper, staked his claim for the number seven spot when the tournament gets under way, with 49 from just 35 deliveries. His most impressive stroke among seven boundaries was a powerfully hooked six off Peter Siddle.
But he fell attempting an eighth boundary when he picked out David Hussey at long-off off Nathan Hauritz.
Australia coach Tim Nielsen took heart from his side’s success with the new ball, saying: “The pleasing thing was to have them five down for 21.
“Brett and Mitchell almost put the game to sleep in the first six overs. Then we chased the score down sensibly.
“It is nice to turn the competitive juices on in a game situation. You can never replicate that in training no matter how hard you do it, so to play against another country gets the adrenaline going and some good stuff happened because of the competitive environment.”
Left-armer Johnson finished with 4-20, having claimed wickets in the first over of each of his three spells.
“He is just starting to get some condition about him,” said Nielsen. “He was beaming last night because of the fact he thought his rhythm was there and the ball was coming out fast without him trying hard. That’s always a good indication.”
McGlashan claimed it was “nice to take the opportunity” to bat at number seven, adding: “It was one of those situations where I had nothing to lose and to take advantage of that was good.”
“We have been talking about the fact we have enough ball strikers that we can continue to go throughout the full 20 overs.”