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'India pace attack poses a threat'

India's fast bowlers pose a major threat to Australia's ambitions to lift the World Cup on Sunday, according to Ricky Ponting.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 14:42 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

India's fast bowlers pose a major threat to Australia's ambitions to lift the World Cup on Sunday, according to Ricky Ponting.

Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra have shared 49 wickets in the tournament and all three impressed on Thursday as India swept past Kenya in the Durban semi-final.

Ponting told Reuters: "India are a good side, their batting line-up is long and good and (Sachin) Tendulkar has had a pretty fair tournament.

"All the same, the thing that has stood out about them for me is their fast bowling and that has done some damage.

"Their bowlers are the ones who have improved a lot over the last 12 months. Nehra seems to have come from nowhere, Khan has been steady and Srinath has been doing the same thing as he always has."

Australia, though, will not be short of confidence as they look to defend the title won at Lord's in 1999 and become the first side to win the World Cup three times, having also lifted the trophy under Allan Border in 1987.

Their winning streak in one-day cricket extends to a world-record 16 games and they have won all 10 of their matches in the tournament, including an emphatic nine-wicket win over India at Centurion Park on 15 February.

The fast bowlers from Australia had called the tune then, with Brett Lee claiming three for 36, man-of-the-match Jason Gillespie taking three for 13 and Glenn McGrath chipping in with one for 23.

Gillespie has returned home with a heel injury but Andy Bichel has stepped into his shoes so easily, taking 15 wickets at under 10 runs apiece, that Australia have barely missed a beat.

Lee now has 20 wickets, terrorising opposition batting line-ups in the process, and Ponting felt he could have a crucial effect on Sunday's match, expected to be played on a pace-friendly surface.

LEE TROUBLE

"If Brett gets it right he could cause them some trouble," he said. "There is bound to be some short stuff but as much as the pace it is also the length that you bowl that is important.

"We saw that when Brett got Ganguly and Sehwag with full length balls at Centurion and Shane Bond did the same to them when New Zealand played India."

Australia's major concern is over batsman Damien Martyn's fitness.

Martyn, who has scored 235 Cup runs with three fifties in seven innings, fractured his right index finger against Kenya last week. The right-hander will face a final test during a net session on Saturday.

"I am still hoping Damien comes up okay and can play and speaking to our physiotherapist Errol Alcott he believes he has a chance," Ponting said.

"He has been consistent throughout this World Cup and can play either his normal positive game or defensively if we get into early trouble."

NO HIDING

But he added: "You can't hide blokes in this form of the game and although I guess he would be unlikely to field at first slip he would still have to be able to throw properly."

If Martyn is passed fit, all rounder Ian Harvey is likely to miss out.

Otherwise, Ponting said, Australia would almost certainly field the same side that overcame Sri Lanka in Tuesday's rain-affected semi-final in Port Elizabeth.

Andrew Symonds would bat at number five but, after his recent form which culminated in an unbeaten 91 against Sri Lanka, Ponting had no concerns.

"Andrew has been one of the stand-out batsmen of the tournament as his figures show," he said. "I think he has got 326 runs in five innings and their quick bowlers won't hold any fears for him."

For Symonds it will be a return to the ground where he came of age as an international player, smashing 143 not out from 125 balls in Australia's opening match against Pakistan.

A repeat would go a long way to ensuring Australia became only the second side after the West Indies in 1975 and 1979 to retain the World Cup.

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 14:28 IST