Australia not taking Kiwis lightly in semi-final clash
Having come close once again to the title that has eluded them so far, world champions Australia go into the Champions Trophy semi-final against New Zealand on Thursday fully aware that any slip-up at this stage could spell doom to their mission.
The Australians are the clear favourites but are in no mood to take their opponents lightly in what promises to be a thrilling contest of skills and nerves.
The Kiwis have a number of all-rounders in their ranks and have the capability to spring a surprise on their day, which is bound to keep Ricky Ponting and his men on their toes right through the floodlit encounter.
The perennial 'underdog' tag has suited the Kiwis who can go out and play their natural game while the pressure will be on their rivals who are expected to win as they are the top ranked team.
Ponting has told his teammates to guard against complacency as a drop in intensity level could prove disastrous.
"We want to win this title, it's the second biggest tournament after the World Cup. It's our goal to win it", Ponting said.
Although most matches in this high-profile event have turned out to be low-scoring affairs, the last Group A tie between India and Australia saw some runs being scored and it remains to be seen whether the script unfolds in a similar way on the morrow. More
The batsmen will have to deliver the goods and the return to form of Ponting is a positive sign for the team which had made it to the semi-finals on two earlier ocassions but has never managed to go beyond that stage.
Having seen how the Mohali wicket has behaved in the last few games, Ponting was quite certain that his pacemen would be able to exploit the conditions.
"We have seen how the wicket has played. The Mohali track always has more bounce and pace than the other Indian wickets. I think the conditions will suit us," he said.
Ponting also said that Australia's failure to win the Champions Trophy would not weigh on the minds of the players.
"It is a fact that we have never won the tournament, but I don't think we will have that in our mind when we go into the field. We will just concentrate on what we have to do tomorrow".
The New Zealanders will be heavily depending on their in-form captain Stephen Fleming for putting up a big total on the board. They have some other good batsmen in Lou Vincent and Nathan Astle who can be quite destructive on their day.
Much will depend on how pace spearhead Shane Bond performs as he has a key role to play while spinner Daniel Vettori also has his task cut out.
New Zealand have a number of useful all-rounders which gives them a lot of depth in batting but the same also holds true for the world champions who have a lot more flexibility and balance in the team with all-rounder Shane Watson opening the batting.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Nathan Bracken, Dan Cullen, Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds.
New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, James Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Brendon McCullum, Hamish Marshall, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.