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Another loss adds insult to Ponting injury

For most of the Australian summer leading to the World Cup, Ricky Ponting faced questions about his poor form and future, a broken finger only adding to his gloom. N Ananthanarayanan reports.

cricket Updated: Feb 16, 2011 03:19 IST
N Ananthanarayanan

For most of the Australian summer leading to the World Cup, Ricky Ponting faced questions about his poor form and future, a broken finger only adding to his gloom.

However, the combative Australia skipper provided the silver lining in a disjointed batting line-up, which did not show any signs of recovery against the sharp South African bowling attack in the second and final warm-up game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Tuesday.

Ponting still looked rusty, having missed the 6-1 home series victory over England due to injury, and played and missed frequently at the start. But at least he dug in to score his second successive fifty.

He put on a 122-run partnership with Michael Clarke - who top-scored on the ground where he scored a century on Test debut - but the South Africa speedsters, led by Dale Steyn and their disciplined spinners, kept the innings well in check as the rest of the batsmen failed to click.

Australia sorely missed the solidity of Mike Hussey, out of the event due to injury, and the batsmen have plenty of work to do before their first Group A game against Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad on February 21.

Ponting, who led Australia to the last two WC triumphs, was grim-faced when the innings folded up well short of the full quota of overs. While the batsmen succumbed to spin against India on Sunday on a slower pitch, they had themselves to blame for the seven-wicket defeat as the adjacent track for Tuesday's game played far better. Steyn and Co frustrated Ponting and Clarke with their fuller length to allow for some late movement after the South Africa pace spearhead had trapped the in-form Shane Watson leg before a fourth-ball duck.

Skipper Graeme Smith and his in-form opening partner Hashim Amla steadily picked runs once they saw off the hostile opening spells. Shaun Tait bowled fast, but he pitched far too short. Both retired hurt after reaching their fifties, to give a chance to the middle order.

Ponting also took a painful hit on his injured finger while stopping a drive by JP Duminy. He kicked the ball away and kept checking his finger. Aussie bowlers failed to take a wicket.

Brief scores: Australia 217 in 47.1 overs (Ponting 55, Clarke 73, Steyn 3-21, Peterson 3-45) lost to South Africa 218/3 in 44.2 overs (Smith 65, Amla 60)