Aussies eye maiden Champions Trophy final

Australia captain Ricky Ponting has urged his team to go flat out to make their first Champions Trophy final when they clash with New Zealand in Wednesday’s semifinal.

“There are no excuses now for us,” Ponting said ahead of the day-night clash against their trans-Tasman rivals at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium.

“We’ve got a good team, we’ve got a full list of guys to pick from and we’re playing a semifinal at a venue that we’ve just played a game on.

“We can’t complain, with the way things have worked out for us.”

Australia have not progressed beyond the semifinals in the four previous Champions Trophy tournaments, despite being the number one side with back-to-back World Cup victories in 1999 and 2003.

Ponting’s men knocked out hosts India on Sunday to set up a potentially absorbing semifinal against the in-form Black Caps, who defeated world number two South Africa and Pakistan in the group stage.

Australia have won 15 of their last 17 matches against their Tasman neighbours, but lost the most recent one in December last year when New Zealand successfully chased a target of 331 at Christchurch.

“I think New Zealand’s strength over the last couple of years in one-day cricket has probably been their numerous all-rounders,” said Ponting.

“They just really enjoy playing one-day cricket and they have not played much lately, so they have been gearing themselves for this sort of tournament.

“I think the conditions that we’re playing in here will probably suit them a little bit as well.

“It will be a big game against New Zealand and a great challenge for all of us.”

New Zealand, who won the Champions Trophy in 2000, will miss key all-rounder Scott Styris, who has not recovered from a back injury suffered against Pakistan last week.

“He has not been able to practice, its unlikely be will play,” Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming said of Styris, whose 86 against Pakistan helped the team qualify for the semifinals.

“We will miss him because he showed the other day what he’s capable of in big games. But it gives others a chance to make up for his loss.”

Without Styris, whose century won the last game against Australia in Christchurch, New Zealand may struggle to cope with their rivals’ bowling attack of Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Nathan Bracken, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson.

New Zealand’s own pace spearhead Shane Bond is also troubled with a hamstring niggle, but Fleming said a decision on him will not be made until Wednesday morning.

The Kiwis will be hoping Bond is fit since he will be their trump card on a wicket that assisted bounce and movement in the previous match played on it.—Sapa-AFP

Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Nathan Bracken, Daniel Cullen, Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds.

New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (capt), Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, James Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Brendon McCullum, Hamish Marshall, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.

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