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Australia hope for better competition ahead of semis

cricket Updated: Apr 15, 2007 03:21 IST
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Unwavering focus on the goal as the business end of the World Cup comes closer and chasing it in the best shape possible, the Australians are going about their job with some ruthlessness. They are looking forward to the tougher games ahead so that they are at their best when the knockout phase starts in about 10 days from now.



Ricky Ponting admitted a better contest than what his team got against Ireland on Friday would have been ideal, though instead of thinking too much about it, he said he was waiting for the last two Super Eight matches against New Zealand and Sri Lanka.



“I would have been happier to get a slightly tougher game. Hopefully, we will get that in the last two games. The next two weeks are going to be the showcase period of this World Cup and it gives us a chance to go to the semifinals fresh from some good cricket.”


They were out to come up with a solid, no-frill performance against one of the weakest teams, but instead of taking it easy, they used the opportunity to try out some of the yet untested parts of their win machine. In came Stuart Clark for Nathan Bracken while Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds were sent ahead for some batting practice.



“Most of the batting so far has been done by our top-order so it is important that these two get some runs under their belt. Plus, we have to find out what options we have in case Shane Watson does not make good recovery before the semi-finals.” That apart, Ponting was confident with the resources at his disposal. “With (Shaun) Tait and (Glenn) McGrath, we can knock off many top-orders.”



He has been trying to strike the right balance with his oldest and youngest bowlers. McGrath has got the new ball in just two games, with Tait sharing it with Bracken. “Tait gives us two options. He can swing the old one and the new one. I give him three or four overs at the start so that he can be used in the middle and later stages. It also gives McGrath at first change the chance to bowl with a ball that is new.”



For a team refusing to leave a stone unturned in pursuit of an unprecedented hat-trick of titles, Ponting revealed they have also learnt how to maintain intensity, not just day in and day out, but over decades. They got the right man to talk on this Steve Redgrave, the British rower with five straight Olympic gold medals from 1984 to 2000.



“He addressed the group on Tuesday. Steve did not like ever being known as an underdog, he wanted to be the favourite.”