Australia captain Ricky Ponting is optimistic his batsmen will be solve the spin puzzle ahead of bigger matches in a quest for winning a fourth successive World Cup.
“I think the more we play and the more we get accustomed to these conditions the better our performance will be against spin,” said Ponting, under whose captaincy Australia have not lost a match in the last two World Cups.
Defending champions Australia opened their campaign with a 91-run victory over Zimbabwe in a day-night match in Ahmedabad on Monday, but their performance against spin left a lot to be desired.
In-form opener Shane Watson (79) and Michael Clarke (58 not out) hit impressive half-centuries to guide Australia to 262-6, but most of the batsmen struggled to score freely against Zimbabwe’s slow bowlers.
Australia have been finding it difficult to dominate spin on low, slow pitches since they lost their opening warm-up game against India in Bangalore.
They face another spin test when they clash with trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in their second match in Nagpur on Friday, with their opponents having quality spinners in Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum.
“We know that spin factor will be a big one in this tournament. We know these conditions and know how to play in India or Sri Lanka,” Ponting said after Australia’s 24th successive win in the World Cup. “We need to play better [against spin]. We need to be at the top of our game as the tournament progresses and I think are not there quite yet.”
Australia, who managed just 28 in the opening 10 overs against Zimbabwe, will need a brisk start from Watson and Brad Haddin against New Zealand, who may also open the attack with a spinner, like Zimbabwe.
Off-spinner McCullum did it in New Zealand’s crushing win over Kenya in Chennai on Sunday, giving away just 15 runs in his four overs.
“Hopefully, we can get off to a much better start next time and take pressure off the middle order,” said Watson, named man of the match against Zimbabwe.
The Australian skipper, who described the victory over Zimbabwe as “solid” rather than “spectacular,” had reasons to be satisfied with the performance of his pace trio of Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Brett Lee.
The pacemen bowled their hearts out to virtually reduce the match to a no-contest with their sharp performances as Zimbabwe were dismissed for 171. Johnson was the pick of the bowlers with 4-19 off 9.2 overs.
When asked what was the main feature of their pace attack, Ponting said: “The variations that we have in our attack. [Left-arm paceman] Johnson and Tait were more consistent.”
“Tait, with his slinging action, swings the new ball and reverses the old one, and this was probably one of the best spells I have seen Johnson bowl in one-day cricket,” Ponting said. “I thought Johnson was outstanding and Tait’s just working up to match fitness so to get eight or nine overs out of him was a real bonus. The attack has variations and the ability to break partnerships.”
The Australian captain, meanwhile, didn’t quite perform as well as he had expected.
A furious Ponting, who hit for 29 runs, took out his frustration at being run out by smashing a television set with his bat in the team’s dressing room.
The incident was reported to the sport’s governing body, but an International Cricket Council source said yesterday “it was unlikely the matter would be taken any further.”