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Former Australian skipper thinks New Zealand are playing like the new Australia
Ricky Ponting believes Australia’s tag as tournament favorites will be put to the test when they face fellow tournament hosts, New Zealand, at 7.30 pm ET tonight in Eden Park, Auckland LIVE on ESPN Caribbean, ESPN Play. New Zealand boast a perfect three wins from three games and top Group A with 6 points followed by Sri Lanka with 4 and the Aussies with 3.
Despite having a game in hand, the former Australian captain believes his countrymen must be wary about the Kiwis, whom he considered very “Australian” in their cavalier approach on the heels of their last match – a crushing eight wicket win against England. The Kiwis raced to 125/2 in just 13 overs after dismantling the English team for a paltry 123 with skipper Brendon McCullum spanking 77 off just 39 deliveries.
Ponting pointed to McCullum as the danger man and key motivator to watch. “Brendon is always trying to take the game forward, and I think that is rubbing off on the rest of the side. They have plenty of quality players, but there is also a bit more belief in themselves. That’s backed up by the way they went about the run chase against England there was something very Australian about how they went about peeling off a small total. Brendon was trying to stamp himself and his team on the tournament with the way he came out and batted. To see your captain come out and play that way would have been a really powerful thing.” He admitted that this match was one he wished he could participate in as many are touting it the clash of the titans thus far. “Australia’s encounter with New Zealand in Auckland falls very firmly into the category of matches I wish I was still around to play in. Sitting back, retired, on the couch, I am sure I will feel like jumping through the television screen and getting involved,” he told ESPN Caribbean.
He added that home support would be a crucial factor for New Zealand, especially given that they have grown from dark-horses to fellow favorites as the tournament progressed. “Playing across the Tasman can be a difficult experience for Australian teams – just for the aggression of the spectators, let alone the players. It is an intimidating place to play as far as the crowds are concerned, and there is always plenty going on. I can remember on some of my early tours there, all sorts of things would be said to you, and sometimes also thrown at you! The atmosphere was pretty hostile, and that could help to gee you up for the game.” Ponting also hinted that there could be more spice to the game given the Australians’ tendency to sledge opponents, which the ICC have warned they will be clamping down on especially in the wake of the hot-tempered 2015 series between Australia and India.
New Zealand spinner, Daniel Vettori, earlier this week, played down the sledging factor between the teams following suggestions that the Kiwis play much cleaner cricket – to which Ponting disagreed. “I have been amused a little by talk emanating from New Zealand that they have given up on sledging. Any New Zealand side I played against always had a bit to say, and Brendon McCullum was usually one of them. Tim Southee is another who was always talking, so much so that he reminded me of James Anderson for how competitive and “in your face” he could be. A few of the younger members of the side, such as Corey Anderson, may be more mild-mannered, and maybe they are trying to say that as a way of keeping the Aussies quiet when they play, but if it does turn out to be an aggressive contest, I’m sure the Kiwis won’t be taking a backward step.”