'Aussie grit' to be tested at Champions Trophy | cricket | Hindustan Times
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'Aussie grit' to be tested at Champions Trophy

Australia waited eight years before winning the Champions Trophy in 2006 and are not expected to relax their grip easily when the 2009 tournament begins in South Africa next week.

cricket Updated: Sep 15, 2009 10:31 IST

Australia waited eight years before winning the Champions Trophy in 2006 and are not expected to relax their grip easily when the 2009 tournament begins in South Africa next week.

Smiles were back on the faces of their opponents after their recent Ashes defeat, but quickly disappeared following their one-day series victory over England.

The famous 'Aussie grit' will be on view again when they begin the defence of their title even without some of their key players who figured prominently in their the Champions Trophy win in India three years ago.

Australia wear a different look this time as they are missing four of their 2006 stars, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds, but skipper Ricky Ponting does not appear to be short of confidence.

"We've got great depth in Australian cricket and I think this is one of the things that has held us ahead of the game for the last seven or eight years," Ponting said.

"We expect the young guys who come into the side to make an impact as well as those who have been in the side for some time."

Australia are in Group A with unpredictable Pakistan, in-form India and the depleted West Indies.

Easy matches are not expected in Group B, with South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and New Zealand all capable of raising their game.

The top two sides from each group advance to the semi-finals, with the final to be played at Centurion on October 5.

India and South Africa emerge as strong challengers to Australia following their impressive recent performances. South Africa, enjoying home advantage, have beaten Australia in away and home one-day series this year.

South Africa will also be keen to break a jinx of not winning a major title at home, having flopped at the 2003 World Cup and then the 2007 Twenty20 World Championships.

Australia are expected to cruise past the West Indies, who are without their first-choice team following a bitter contract row between the players and their cricket board.

The West Indies recently suffered a humiliating setback at home when their second-string side lost both Test and one-day series against Bangladesh.

Australia need to be at their best in the remaining two matches and will have to beat either India or World Twenty20 champions Pakistan to boost their chances of making it to the semi-finals.

A cracker of a match awaits fans when arch-rivals India and Pakistan clash for the first time in more than a year. The cricketing ties snapped between the two nations following last year's Mumbai attacks.

"No rivalry can match the India-Pakistan rivalry and I think the September 26 match will be something billions of people all over the world will be waiting for," said Pakistani paceman Umar Gul.

India are enjoying a dream one-day run, their five successive bilateral series wins under captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten boosted further by Monday's success over Sri Lanka.

England won the Ashes in a spectacular fashion, but their performance left a lot to be desired in the subsequent one-day series against Australia.

They have also lost much of their strength in the absence of injured match-winning duo of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff.

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara leads an exciting band of cricketers - Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Muttiah Muralitharan and Mahela Jayawardene - but expects his team to be more consistent.

New Zealand can never be underestimated as they have match-winners in skipper Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder. The return of paceman Shane Bond has also strengthened their attack.