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World favourites for Super Test: Ponting

"We know that we have to play better cricket for longer periods in Test cricket if we want to win," said the Aussie skipper.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2005 18:16 IST

Australia embarrassed the world all-stars in last week's one-day Super Series but skipper Ricky Ponting insisted onThursday they were favourites to win the six-day Super Test starting at the Sydney Cricket Ground onFriday.

The world XI was lambasted from all quarters for its tame submission in last Sunday's final one-dayer, humbled by 156 runs, yet Ponting believes they still deserve to be favourites to knock over Australia in the Test.

The Australians trounced the World XI 3-0 in the ODI series, looking hungry and keen to atone after the fall-out over losing the Ashes to England last month.

"Even though we won the one-day series convincingly I still think they have to start favourites in this game just for the absolute quality of players that they've got all the way down their list," Ponting said at his match-eve press conference Thursday.

"It's an amazing team and one that will challenge us in every aspect of the game, but if we play our cricket we'll challenge them in every aspect as well, that's the exciting thing about this Test match."

Australia have boosted their bowling firepower by including all-rounder Shane Watson and leg-spinner Stuart MacGill, discarding their usual four-man bowling attack by going in with five bowlers.

Watson, who was man-of-the-match twice last week with bat and ball, takes over from sacked Damien Martyn and MacGill forms a dream leg-spinning tandem with Shane Warne on the spin-friendly SCG pitch.

Batsman Brad Hodge will have to wait longer for his Test debut after he was named 12th man with Michael Clarke to bat in Martyn's batting slot.

"Michael Clarke will bat at No.4. He's pretty excited about it, he's another one whose game has developed over the last couple of years and he's looked at home every time he's come to the crease in both forms of the game and he has a big future," Ponting said.

There were plenty of mentions Thursday of the lessons from the Ashes defeat to England, who will have two of their stars, Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison, in the world team.

"It was the big moments in the Tests in England that let ourselves down, which the Australian cricket team had been renowned for winning over the years, but they were the ones we actually lost so we've addressed those areas," Ponting said.

"We know that we have to play better cricket for longer periods in Test cricket if we want to win."

"We made mental and physical mistakes in the Ashes series and our team preparation was slightly off."

"That's been the main area we've looked at tightening up and improving and so far it's worked well, it worked particularly well in Melbourne last week and it's worked very in the lead-up to this game as well."

The selection of MacGill (160) to partner 623-Test wicket-taker Warne in the officially-sanctioned Test offers the enticing prospect for purists of seeing four of world cricket's great spinners on view, along with the world's Muttiah Muralitharan (563) and Daniel Vettori (207).

MacGill has an outstanding record at his home SCG pitch, taking 40 wickets in six Tests.

"I think there will be moisture in the wicket on the first morning, which means the ball will seam a bit but it also means it will spin as well, making it a tough decision to make at the toss," Ponting said.

"It's also a six-day Test and if it goes that long there's absolutely no doubt that the Sydney will turn."

Ponting, who took the brunt of criticism for the loss of the Ashes, said he was under no extra pressure as normal leading Australia in the Super Test.

"Looking back on the Ashes there weren't too many of us that came back knowing that we had played as well as we could, so all the guys are keen to get back."

"I was a bit disappointed with some of the criticism ... I received when I got back, some of it was fair, but some of it unfair."

"But all I can do is go our there and hopefully improve on my own game with the batting and the captaincy."

"At the same time I know I'm not going to keep everybody happy 100 percent, but as long as I am keeping the players in the dressing room and the people at Cricket Australia (happy) then I know I'm doing the right job," he said.

Teams

Australia - Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Shane Watson, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Stuart MacGill. Brad Hodge (12th man).

World (from) - Graeme Smith (captain), Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, Steve Harmison, Muttiah Muralitharan, Daniel Vettori.

First Published: Oct 13, 2005 18:16 IST