Aussies have the bowlers to take Indian wickets: Ponting

Published: Tuesday, December 25, 2007, 12:58 [IST]
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Skipper Ricky Ponting is certain the Australian bowling attack still pack a punch in the post-Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath era and will prove it against India in the Boxing Day Test.

Pace spearhead Brett Lee shoulders a heavy responsibility leading an inexperienced bowling attack at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but Ponting said there is more variety in the current crop.

This will be the first major examination for Australia's bowlers since the retirement earlier this year of leg-spinner Warne (708 wickets) and paceman McGrath (563), who are in Test cricket's all-time top four.

Ponting and selectors want more time to analyse a MCG wicket, which has had its preparation hampered by rain over the past week.

With conditions likely to favour fast bowling on the first morning, Australia must decide between using a four-prong pace attack for the first time in almost 16 years, or going in with wrist-spinner Brad Hogg and three quicks.

Left-armer Mitchell Johnson and tearaway Shaun Tait will battle for the third pace spot if Hogg plays.

Regardless of which attack Australia get as they chase a 15th successive Test victory, Ponting said he was confident it would be more dangerous and boast more variety than the ones which struggled to bowl India out in the corresponding home series four years ago, when McGrath was injured and Warne was suspended.

Ponting said spearhead Brett Lee was in career-best form, after a man-of-the-series performance against Sri Lanka last month, Stuart Clark's record was among the best in the world and Johnson had been impressive.

"I'm very confident in the attack that we've got, that it's going to be good enough to take 20 wickets in every Test we play this summer, so I couldn't ask for anything more," Ponting told a match-eve press conference on Tuesday.

Ponting said even with McGrath and Warne and their combined 1271 wickets now gone, Australia had the bowlers to trouble India's star batsmen.

"(Lee) is a wicket-taking bowler (but) for different reasons (than) Shane was," he said. "That's what Tait is as well.

"If Tait happens to play in this game he's exactly like that, he's a guy who can break a game open in a couple of overs."

"So the wicket-taking options we lost with McGrath and Warne, we've just gained other guys in different roles to do that for us," he added.

Lee (247 wickets in 61 Tests) has looked impressive this southern summer, but Tait (5 wickets in two Tests), Clark (54 wickets in 11 Tests), Johnson (8 wickets in two Tests) and Hogg (9 wickets in four Tests) have only played 19 Tests between them.

Ponting said it was important that Australia learned from prior mistakes to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and not bowl too short and over-attack India's experienced batsmen.

"There's a terrific feel around the group," he said. "It's Boxing Day, we're going to have a big crowd. It's a great place to play Test cricket and India are a great opponent.

"So put all that together and you can pretty much assure that Australia are going to be on song when we take the field tomorrow.

"Looking back at last year's Ashes series against England, that was as well prepared as I've ever seen any cricket team for any series that I've been a part of and, right at the moment, we've got a really similar sort of feel around the group."

Melbourne Cricket Club officials expect a first-day crowd of about 75,000, which would be better than the start of the 2005 Test against South Africa, although would not match last year's 89,155 Ashes sell-out against England.

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