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The Rediff Special/Ashish Magotra
March 07, 2003
Australia captain Ricky Ponting feels his side played very well in the first two matches but since then the performance seems to have tapered off.
The dashing batsman, addressing a press conference on the eve of Friday's Australia-Sri Lanka match at Centurion, said: "We have been training hard and the anticipation of the matches to come is high."
Looking at the opening match of the Super Sixes, he said, "We have come up against each other a lot and, at times, Sri Lanka have got the better of us. We have beaten them quite a few times since the 1996 World Cup too."
Talking about Aravinda De Silva's return to form, he said, "We have never really played a lot of Tests against him but he is definitely a class player with both bat and ball. His bowling is deceptive but he can be very dangerous."
Asked how big a part Muthiah Muralitharan could play in the match, Ponting very candidly replied that "Murali is the best spin bowler in the world" and that the Aussies had sat together as a team and as individuals to try and figure out a way of playing him.
Chaminda Vaas is the other bowler who has been earmarked by the Aussies as the man to watch out for.
"But, at the end of the day, it is up to the individual on the field," Ponting said.
The Aussies look confident, and why should they not be. They finished the group stage unbeaten though for the moment they would prefer to keep their minds off trying to finish the tournament like that.
The unavailability of a bowler of Jason Gillespie's class would have left most teams gasping for breath but not the Aussies.
"Gillespie is out but we have Andy Bichel to step into his shoes. He took seven wickets in his last match and will come into the match on a high. He is ready and has not played as much cricket as he may have liked to but that has just made him more hungry. But, obviously, Gillespie is a big, big loss."
The Aussies have another change in the team as Andrew Symonds, the hard-hitting all-rounder, will miss the game due to a slight strain in his groin.
"Ian Harvey has been drafted into the team and, hopefully, he will bring with him a repeat of the four wickets he claimed in the first game," added Ponting.
Asked whether Australia will go in for the same bowling strategy that they adopted against India -- keep it short and into the ribs --, Ponting said only after having a look at the pitch would the team decide whether to pitch it up and let it swing, or pitch it quick and short.
The Aussie skipper also feels Sri Lanka on top are a very dangerous side and they are showing signs of coming together.
"The match against England was a wake-up call for all of us. England are a good side but we took it easy. Injuries have caught up with us but we are still a very good side."
India skipper Sourav Ganguly and Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya have expressed reservations about playing the semi-final in Durban under lights but Ponting is not bothered.
"We played a day-night game in Durban and easily chased 270 for the loss of around two wickets, so I really don't see it as a problem."
The Rediff Specials