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The Ashes: Aussies Lick Wounds After Elimination

By on June 10, 2009

ashes ricky ponting

Australia spent their first 24 hours in World Twenty20 exile paying the price for slow over-rates and arranging for Test-only players to fly to England two days earlier than originally scheduled. On a day Ricky Ponting had hoped would be occupied with net sessions and Super Eights strategy meetings, Australia instead awoke to hollow emotions and empty schedules after their tournament-ending six-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka on Monday.

The move by ICC match referee Chris Broad to fine Australia’s cricketers 5% of their match fee – and 10% for Ponting – for slow over-rates during Monday’s defeat to Sri Lanka was the final indignation of a woeful three-day World Twenty20 campaign. Lighter in the pocket, the Australians then boarded a bus for a week-long stint in Leicester, where Ponting will look to ensure the disappointment of the 20-over tournament does not corrode the squad’s Ashes preparations.

Australia will not play an additional tour match during their unexpected break, but have taken the opportunity to fly Test-only players Phillip Hughes, Simon Katich, Stuart Clark, Marcus North, Andrew McDonald and Graham Manou to England two days earlier than originally scheduled to join the existing squad members. The entire 15-man touring party will gather in London next Tuesday before embarking on the first of their practice games against Sussex at Hove from June 24.

“I won’t be focussing on any of the negative stuff that happened here in the last couple of days,” Ponting said. “It’s about looking at the positives we created in our Test team over the last few months. I’d love to think that none of this would linger around. It’s about creating an environment that everyone wants to be a part of when they get here. The excitement and atmosphere at the start of the Ashes is going to be tremendous, and if we can caught up a little bit in that then I’m sure there won’t be any negatives hanging around from the last few games.

“It can’t hinder us, I guess, to have some more time with the red balls and the white clothing. Now that England are through to the next round they’ll obviously play this form of the game for another week at least. If there is one positive, maybe we can get some from our week in Leicester.”

In all honesty, there appears little value in Australia spending a quiet week in the East Midlands at a time when two of their key players are in desperate need of constructive game time.

Michael Hussey, the foundation of Australia’s middle order for the past four seasons, has yet to prove he has overcome the extended slump which prompted selectors to rest him from the recent ODI series against Pakistan, and Brett Lee was jolted in his early steps towards an international comeback. Lee conceded 95 runs in eight overs against the free-swinging West Indian and Sri Lankan batsmen at the World Twenty20, and will no doubt be looking forward to a steadier outing at Hove.

Ponting, as ever, came out in support of his beleaguered players, but must surely be wary of the impact an underperforming Hussey and Lee could have on Australia’s Ashes campaign.

“I know how good a player Mike is and has been for Australia over the last few years,” Ponting said. “I know that he is going to be an integral part of our Ashes campaign going forward. As a batsman, everyone goes through their ups and downs through their career. Knowing Mike the way I do and how hard he works on his game, he will certainly give himself every opportunity to have a big Ashes campaign.

“We all know how good a bowler Brett can be and will be when he gets some more bowling under his belt. He’ll be a little bit disappointed with these couple of games, but it’s a really fine line – when you’re bowling as quick as he does with the new ball on these sort of wickets and these sort of grounds, if you’re just a little bit off batsmen use your pace and before you know it the ball is rocketing to the fence. Definitely he’s still working back into it. I’m sure when the first Test comes around he’ll be firing on all cylinders.”

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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