Island Cricket

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sri Lankans are scared: Ponting

Phil Lutton
November 7, 2007 - 3:43PM
SMH

Any suggestion this Test series would be flat in the wake of last summer's Ashes has been blown out of the water by Australian skipper Ricky Ponting, who says Sri Lanka are scared going into tomorrow's series opener at The Gabba.

In a move sure to add some feeling to the summer's first exchanges, Ponting needled the tourists by saying they still feared Australia after being dominated in recent years in all forms of the game.

In his 2007 Captain's Diary, Ponting said Sri Lanka couldn't overcome their fear of Australia in the World Cup final in the Caribbean and today backed up his words, saying he could see no reason why that fear factor wouldn't still be there.

"You would think so. It's the same group of players. I'd imagine it would be. We've got a very good record against them," Ponting said.

"I know early days they probably competed pretty well against us. Look back to the 96 World Cup final, they beat us there, and they beat us in the Champion's Trophy semi-final not long after that.

"I think in the last few years we really have dominated them in both forms of the game. We had a great Test series win against them over there in my first series as captain so I think all those fears are definitely still there.

"It's a matter of us starting this Test series well, starting tomorrow well early on and reinvigorating some of those fears still in them. I've got no doubt they're still there."

Ponting's comments will no doubt stir the soul of Sri Lanka, who believe they have the bowling attack and batting strength to eclipse the Australians on home soil for the first time.

Sri Lanka played two Tests in Australia in 2004, losing the series 1-0 after forcing a draw in Cairns and succumbing on a difficult wicket in Darwin.

Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene rebuked Ponting's assertion, saying his squad held no fear of their hosts and believed they were peaking at the right time after recent Test triumphs in England, New Zealand and Pakistan.

"We don't fear Australia. They've played some good cricket against us, yes, and we've competed really well. And we as a group have improved quite a bit in the last two years, especially away from home," Jayawardene said.

"That was a challenge that we set out two or three years ago, where we need to improve the way we compete away from home.

"Yes, we've done very well in Sri Lanka because the conditions are quite used to us. But in the last three years we've beaten England in England, New Zealand in New Zealand, Pakistan in Pakistan, so this is one of the places we haven't done well. It's a great challenge to see how we can approach this.

"The last time we were in Australia we drew a Test match after a long time in Cairns. It went five days, we played some really good cricket.

"The Darwin Test match - the wicket had a bit in it - we fought really well but a couple of good knocks from Gilly (Adam Gilchrist ) and (Darren) Lehmann changed the game for them.

"We've got a very good bowling unit now who we think can trouble any batting line-up in world cricket these days, so we've got a confident bunch of guys who are looking forward to this challenge."

In other developments in Brisbane this morning, Queensland left-arm pace bowler Mitchell Johnson was named in the side to make his Test debut, with Ben Hilfenhaus the 12th man.

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