Ponting backs young brigade to shine in SA

Australia skipper Ricky Ponting believes his new-look side can shine at the Champions Trophy, which gets under way in South Africa on Tuesday.

Australia lost the seventh and final ODI against England by four wickets on Sunday, but still captured the series 6-1 to ease a little of the pain caused by the loss of the Ashes.

“The last few weeks have been terrific for us. For someone like Cameron White to be the man of the series is a terrific effort for a young player,” said Ponting.

“[Tim] Paine has been terrific for us as well, so all in all, we can go to South Africa really happy with what we have achieved here and with a bit of confidence behind us.”

Graeme Swann believes inconsistent England could easily be the surprise package of this year’s Champions Trophy despite captain Andrew Strauss warning drastic improvements are needed.

Swann took five wickets and was the inspiration behind Sunday’s four-wicket victory.

But the fact they made such hard work of chasing down a relatively straightforward target of 177 highlighted enduring failings in their batting line-up.

Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior and Owais Shah all travel to South Africa this week for the Champions Trophy in woeful form with the bat.

Their struggles have been some of the few predictable elements of a summer that has seen England lose to The Netherlands in the World Twenty20, endure a 6-1 limited-overs thrashing by Australia, yet regain the Ashes and comprehensively outplay the West Indies in all formats.

Swann thinks a change of environment could be enough for England.

“The fact that we’ll be facing different bowling attacks will be important,” said the spinner, who took a career-best 5-28 on Sunday.

“I think that will serve the team well. This [one-day] series seemed ever so long once we were 4-0 down, and you know you have to drive 200 miles just to play the same team who have smashed you a couple of days ago.

“We have a lot of cricket under our belts, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we go out to South Africa and see it as a fresh challenge, and smash the opposition all over the place.”

England open their Champions Trophy campaign against Sri Lanka in Johannesburg on Friday.

Two teams from their group, which also includes New Zealand and favourites South Africa, qualify for the semi-finals.

Strauss told his side the seven one-day games had been a warning they must heed.

“This has served as a timely reminder that, as a side, we’re nowhere near where we want to be,” the captain stressed.

“As a Test side, we have a lot of the component parts in place.
As a one-day side it’s clear we have some work to do still.”

But he warned the under-fire Bopara could at any time recapture the form he showed against the West Indies at the start of the English summer, but which has deserted him since.

“Ravi has had a tough second half of the summer,” Strauss acknowledged.

“But in the first half of the summer he showed everyone his class and his capabilities. Cricket is a form game, so the key to it is to get yourself back into form sooner rather than later. It only ever takes one innings.”—Sapa-AFP

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