Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Australia lose power to demolish

Ricky Ponting's men had to take a less aggressive approach than usual in the Caribbean.

Ricky Ponting has conceded Australia no longer have the sheer muscle to destroy opposition teams and instead must rely on grinding out their wins. Australia beat West Indies 2-0, but all three Tests went to the fifth day and there were several moments when it seemed that West Indies were building towards a surprise victory.

Without the powerful striking of the injured Matthew Hayden and with Brett Lee and Stuart Clark the only consistently reliable bowlers, Australia were forced into a more defensive approach than usual. They set West Indies gradually more challenging fourth-innings chases - 287 in Jamaica, 372 in Antigua and 475 in Barbados - and on each occasion dismissing West Indies proved tougher and more tiring than it might have in the Warne-McGrath era.

"We're probably not demolishing sides like we might have two years ago but we're grinding teams down and winning Test matches, and we're doing it well," Ponting told the Age. "It's a different time for the team. You go in the changing room and you look at the team and it is a bit different to four years ago. But we are winning games and that's something I am really happy about."

The slow and unresponsive pitches in Jamaica and Antigua did not help Australia's normally attacking brand and Ponting said the subcontinental-style conditions brought the two teams closer together. But for a squad that handed debuts to two players, Brad Haddin and Beau Casson, and had several others still finding their way at Test level, Ponting was pleased with the result.

"It [a slow surface] actually goes a little bit against the style of play we're used to playing," Ponting said in the Courier-Mail. "But we stuck to what we knew was going to work on those sort of conditions. A few times the batting has been a little bit indifferent. A few innings we played really well, but I thought the first innings in Barbados, we played pretty poorly on a wicket we should have been able to play better on."

Ponting was impressed by the improving West Indies, who he believed player better than their No. 8 ranking. He predicted a more successful period for the side in the next few years under the leadership of the captain Chris Gayle and the coach John Dyson.

"West Indies are probably a little bit like some other sides around the world, if they just have a couple of injuries they don't tend to have the depth of maybe Australia or South Africa," he said. "But if you read through their side you would actually stack their side up against most others and think that they would be competitive in most games they play. I'm sure in the coming year or couple of years that they will win their fair share of Test matches."