Noted cricket columnist Peter Roebuck reckons that Australia's [ Images ] prospects at the World Cup are bleak after the Ricky Ponting-led team finished third in its qualifying group.
Ponting's men were defeated by Pakistan in their last game in Colombo, which also snapped the defending champions' 34-game unbeaten run in World Cup.
"A victory over New Zealand [ Images ] was balanced by defeat at the hands of a purposeful Pakistani outfit, while the match against Sri Lanka [ Images ] was ruined by rain after the hosts had built a solid position," Roebuck said in his syndicated column for the Sydney [ Images ] Morning Herald.
"Yet it was the two poor performances against the associate sides -- Kenya and Canada [ Images ] -- that might prove most costly because they affected run rate and so denied the team second place on the list," he added.
Roebuck further said that apart from fast bowler Brett Lee [ Images ], the title-holders played badly against Pakistan.
"Throughout, the batting lacked authority and no strong partnerships were formed. Shane Watson [ Images ] lost his wicket to a poorly executed drive and Michael Clarke [ Images ] tried to pull a ball that clipped a bail. Certainly the bounce was sluggish and uneven, but that did not excuse an inept display," Roebuck said.
"Among the flingers, only Lee looked lively, and he did not swing the ball as much as expected. Rather, he took wickets with persistence and pace, preying on the batsmen's nerves, forcing them into error," he added.
He was also critical about Ponting's troubled batting campaign and his captaincy.
"His batting is in decline and he seems powerless to turn it around. He has scored 435 runs this season at an average of 27 and 289 ODI runs in 12 innings. At Premadasa, his only pull shot flew over the keeper's head, his solitary sweep could have been caught at square leg and his only other cross-bat stroke ended up in the keeper's gloves," Roebuck said.
"His captaincy, likewise, lacked conviction. That Lee, his best bowler, did not complete his allocation was a palpable error. Far from throwing him the ball at the critical hour, Ponting waited till it was too late. His field placements were unduly defensive, except for Tait, who does not rely on close catchers. Not for the first time, Ponting's reluctance to place slips proved costly as Watson was twice snicked."
"Ponting's lack of faith in his leg-spinner was obvious. Steve Smith has hardly turned over his arm in the last two matches," he added.