Inzaman lucky to escape ban, says Ponting

Published: Thursday, February 3, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Melbourne:Australian captain Ricky Ponting said his Pakistani counterpart was fortunate to be playing in the tri-series cricket finals after escaping a ban for slow over-rates.

Speaking ahead of the best-of-three limited-overs final series starting here Friday, Ponting said Inzamam-ul-Haq was "pretty lucky" to be taking the field after being sanctioned for the second time in 12 months.

"I know I'm constantly asking the guys to get through the overs quicker and bowl their overs quicker if they can," said Ponting, who has previously used spinners to speed up his side's overs.

"One-day cricket can be decided by a run or a couple of runs here and there and if I can't bowl the bowlers that I want to, when I want to, that makes it harder."

Inzamam was fined his match fee for a slow over-rate against the West Indies on Tuesday by match referee Chris Broad.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) said in a statement issued in London that because it was his second offence in a year, the charge should have been upgraded to a Level 3 breach, which carries an automatic ban of between two and four Test matches or four and eight one-day internationals.

Match referee Broad later admitted he had failed to look at Inzamam's record.

"In applying the provisions of the ICC code I neglected to consult Inzamam's past record," Broad said.

"It was an honest mistake and the matter has been dealt with."

The ICC confirmed Inzamam would not be banned retrospectively, meaning the skipper is poised to continue his good form with the bat, having struck four half-centuries in the six pool matches this series.

Pakistan come into the match after two successive morale-boosting wins following the 30-run victory on Tuesday and a three-wicket defeat of Australia on Sunday.

But for the Australians, there is a great deal of speculation about who will fill the opening batting position with Adam Gilchrist following Matthew Hayden's recent poor form.

Ponting was adamant Hayden should be maintained ahead of the rising star Michael Clark, who has stood in with enormous success, but said it would be up to selectors to decide.

"It's going to be a tough selection and as far as I'm concerned, Matthew is our best opener when he's at his best," Ponting said.

"Quite often the really tough selections around this team, I think it's only fair that selectors make those calls. I'll get my point across to the team that I want to have, but if there's something that the other four selectors see differently, then they'll make that call."

There was a further selection issue for the Australians with three bowlers competing for two spots. Pacemen Michael Kasprowicz and Brett Lee are both vying for a start, as is left-arm wrist spinner Brad Hogg.

Although he took 5-32 in his last one-day match at the MCG, forecast thunder storms could count against Hogg.

"If it's going to be a rain-affected game, then it's generally pretty hard for leg-spinners to hold the ball or spinners of any sort to grip the ball," Ponting said.

Rain prevented either side from getting a net session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but despite 120mm of rain falling at the ground on Wednesday night, the ground's new drainage system -- installed late last year -- meant the wicket and outfield are in good condition.

"Even if we get another 20, or 30 or 40mm on the outfield, it will drain straight through and as soon rain stops tomorrow we can uncover and be ready to play," curator Tony Ware said Thursday.

Both teams will be named on Friday.

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