Australia face tricky task against resurgent Kiwis

Chasing a second successive title, Australia face a tricky task against a resurgent trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in the Champions Trophy final.

updated: October 05, 2009 18:24 IST
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Chasing a second successive title, Australia face a tricky task against a resurgent trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in the Champions Trophy final here on Monday.

Ricky Ponting's men have been in red-hot form going into the tournament after their 6-1 one-day series victory over England and they have not lost a single match in the eight-nation ICC event.

A rejuvenated New Zealand, however, will not let a rare chance of an ICC event triumph go by so easily as they finally broke the semi-final jinx having made it to the final of the Champions Trophy for the second time.

Your Say: Can NZ overpower Aus to win Champions Trophy?

Though without a major ICC event triumph except for the 2000-01 edition of the Champions Trophy, known as ICC knock-out tournament then, New Zealand have always been tough opponents.

The Australians do not look as formidable as they were two years back. But with the fine form of their batters, especially that of skipper Ricky Ponting, they start as favourites to lift the title.

Ponting has been leading by example and has become the most prolific batsman in Champions Trophy with 287 runs at an average of nearly 96.

And Shane Watson's return to form at the top order with a blistering unbeaten 136 against England in the first semi-final will only add to the concerns of Kiwis.

The timely return to form of Michael Hussey has also filled the void left by vice-captain Michael Clarke's absence in the middle-order.

And if Ponting decides to bring in David Hussey, Clarke's replacement, tomorrow in place of unimpressive James Hopes, it will add more meat to the already formidable batting order.

Australia's quick bowling department comprising Peter Siddle, comeback-man Brett Lee, Watson and Mitchell Johnson looks ominous and can rattle any batting line-up on any day.

The good form of the pacers has also compensated the few concerns Ponting had in the slow-bowling department with only off-spinner Nathan Hauritz in his armour.

Ponting has already made his intentions clear and said his side will raise their game when it matters the most.

"We are playing at a level which would win us the big games. We look to play best cricket when it matters. We are peaking at the right time for the finals," Ponting said.

New Zealand, on the other hand, have often been the underdogs in major tournaments, having faltered eight times in the semi-finals of 50-over ICC events.

But having broken the semi-final jinx this time around that too in a tournament they have won once earlier, the Kiwis would be hoping to carry forward their roller-coaster ride in the tournament and register their second title.

New Zealand mainly consists of bits-and-pieces players, mainly all-rounders, who have the capability to turn a match on any day, as was witnessed in Grant Elliot's 75-run knock against Pakistan on Saturday.

Skipper Daniel Vettori is determined to see that his side does not lose a chance to win a major tournament, given their track record as semi-final chokers.

"There is a real ambition in the side. There's belief and desire to win tournament instead of just ending up as semi-finalists," he said.

But with a flat track on offer at Centurion, skipper Daniel Vettori will surely miss the services of his explosive opener Jesse Ryder, who was ruled out mid-way through the tournament due to a groin injury.

In Ryder's absence, wicket-keeper batsman Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor will have to rise to the occasion against a lethal Australian pace attack.

Although Vettori has been multi-tasking with both bat and the ball, the Black Caps cannot afford to leave it to him all the time and especially in a big match like tomorrow.

On the bowling front, with support from Kyle Mills and James Franklin at the other end, ICL-returnee Shane Bond is slow and steadily coming back to his usual hot form sending down fast stuffs.

The charge of middle overs, meanwhile, rests with Vettori, who along with Ian Butler and Elliot, have done a decent job so far in the tournament.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (Captain), David Hussey, Callum Ferguson, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Hopes, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Tim Paine, Peter Siddle, Adam Voges, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Brad Haddin, Doug Bollinger.

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (Captain), Shane Bond, Neil Broom, Ian Butler, Brendon Diamanti, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins, Brendon McCullum, Kyle Mills, James Franklin, Jeetan Patel, Aaron Raymond, Ross Taylor, Daryl Tuffey.