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Australia have all bases covered, says Ponting

Oz have won three World Cups but have come up short in the Champions Trophy, a failure that the skipper wants his team to redress.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2006 14:22 IST

Australia have won three World Cups but have come up short in the Champions Trophy, a failure that skipper Ricky Ponting wants his team to redress in this month's fifth edition in India.

The Australians, nominal favourites for a hat-trick of World Cup victories in the Caribbean next March-April, have prepared for a serious crack at the Champions Trophy by winning a tri-series against the West Indies and India in Malaysia last month.

Australia will be bolstered by the return of wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist, who along with team-mate Mike Hussey ranks as the two top-ranked ODI batsmen in world cricket.

Ponting's team, who have won 16 of their 24 ODI matches this season, tuned up for the world's second biggest one-day tournament with a crushing 127-run victory over the West Indies in the final of the DLF Cup in Kuala Lumpur on September 25.

The tri-series was Australia's first competitive cricket since whitewashing Bangladesh in three ODIs last April.

Ponting, who also has his eye on regaining the Ashes off England in the five-Test home series later this year, believes Australia has all the bases covered for the Champions' Trophy.

"It's obviously one we want to win. It is the second biggest one-day tournament in the world and it is one that has eluded Australia," Ponting said.

"We have been knocked out in the semi-final in the last two Champions Trophies, but we definitely have the squad and the players to challenge seriously this year.

"We've played some good cricket in Indian conditions before so we can go there now with confidence."

Australia have been knocked out of the Champions Trophy in the last two semi-finals, by England two years ago and Sri Lanka in 2002.

Australia will field four of the top-10 ranked batsmen in ODI cricket -- Hussey (1), Gilchrist (2), Ponting (4) and Andrew Symonds (5) -- and three of the top-10 bowlers -- Brett Lee (2), Nathan Bracken (4) and Glenn McGrath (5).

But the team will be strengthened by left-arm speedster Mitchell Johnson and all-rounder Shane Watson, who both did well in the Malaysian tournament.

Johnson snared a career-best 4-11 against India before he was sent home early from the tour in a pre-planned decision by selectors to trim their 18-man squad.

Watson was used as an opening batsman with success and took seven wickets in four games.

"It's been very successful with the experimentation, trying different guys in different roles," Ponting said.

"It's been a really good exercise. Having had a look at a few extra players in different roles, we have lots of different bases covered for the Champions Trophy.

"We've got a pretty good structure in place and if each guy looks after themselves and keeps trying to make themselves better day in and day out, then we will go a long way in the Champions Trophy."

McGrath, who is the sixth all-time leading ODI wicket-taker with 225, is steadily working his way back into form after his first stint at the bowling crease since taking time off last January to look after his ill wife.

McGrath, 36, claimed just one wicket in four limited-overs matches and struggled for rhythm at times, but is looking to recapture his best touch in India.

"I feel I'm heading in the right direction," McGrath said. "We'll be focused on bringing that ICC Champions Trophy home and then we start thinking about the Ashes.

"India is probably the toughest conditions for a fast bowler," he said.

"The wickets are pretty flat over there and the conditions are reasonably pleasant to bowl in."

First Published: Oct 04, 2006 13:27 IST