BANGALORE: Defending Champions Australia are already in the quarterfinals but their spinners have struggled so far in the tournament and they would be keen to prove their worth when they meet Canada in their penultimate group A World Cup match on Wednesday.
The title-holders have already booked a berth in the knock-out stage with an unconvincing 60-run victory over a spirited Kenya but their bowling, specially spinners have been listless to say the least.
Having taken just four wickets between them in the World Cup so far, the slower bowlers have been far from impressive, and the match against the minnows from North America provides them with the best opportunity to show their mettle and brace up for bigger battles ahead.
The side that played against Kenya is likely to be retained, but skipper Ricky Ponting would desperately want his slower bowlers to make greater impact than what they have so far in the tournament.
Specialist spinners Jason Krejza and Steven Smith have taken just a wicket each in the tournament and Michael Clarke too, hasn’t done much of bowling.
While the pace trio of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson, with 21 wickets at an average of 21.76, have done the bulk of the damage, the spinners’ failed to show their worth on helpful sub-continent tracks.
Against Kenya, Krejza and Smith were easily worked around for runs during the middle overs, while Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara played them with ease during their hi-profile clash that was washed out due to rain.
Ponting has already said that he wants more from his spinners after the match against Kenya.
“I still would have liked to see them making some breakthroughs for us. Through those middle overs in this tournament when the ball gets old, and the wicket starts to spin, we are going to need our spinners to strike for us, and that didn’t happen,” Ponting said.
“I tried a few different things with the spinners. Bowling Smith early in the Powerplays was just to give him some experience there and see how he would cope with the situation. It’s probably the first time he’s done that, so that should be good for him.
“Jason tried a couple of different things tonight, bowled the majority around the wicket on a wicket that was spinning, just to get a bit of a feel for the conditions and what he can do in these conditions. There was a bit of experimentation from the spinners,” he had said.
Bidding for their fourth title on the trot and fifth overall, Australia were somewhat frustrated by a 115-run partnership between Collins Obuya and Tanmay Mishra, and would not like to see something similar against Canada, as that could affect their net run-rate.
Three victories and a point from a no-result washout is not poor by any stretch of imagination, but Australia are somehow not able to shake off the rust, and nothing short of a convincing win against Canada, one of the group’s whipping boys, would suffice.
Wednesday’s match will also be their last chance to tinker with the batting line up, considering that Australia play Pakistan in their final league match.
In the match against Kenya, there were some positives for the team.
Clarke churned out his third fifty of the tournament, but the biggest plus for Australia was Michael Hussey’s start to the tournament. Returning from a hamstring trouble as injured fast bowler Doug Bollinger’s replacement, the batsman kicked off his campaign with a typically composed half century.
However, Ponting would be tempted to give out-of-form Cameroon White another chance in the middle. Ponting, himself, too would be keen to spend some time in the middle against a Canadian side that is not expected to pose much threat.
The Canadians are unlikely to break the holders’ 33-match winning streak, but would be keen to bow out on an impressive note.
They had their moment when they beat Kenya by five wickets earlier in the tournament and, in their last match against New Zealand, skipper Ashish Bagai and Jimmy Hansra put on a spirited show before succumbing to a 97-run defeat.
Bagai’s men will also take inspiration from their associate nation Kenya’s performance against Ponting’s men and hope to go out on a high, considering it might well be their last chance to prove a point to the ICC.
“We didn’t bowl in the right areas and the fielding was probably the worst we had in a long time,” said Bagai.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (c), Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Cameron White, Tim Paine, Steve Smith, John Hastings, Mitchell Johnson, Jason Krejza, Brett Lee, Shaun Tait, Callum Ferguson.
Canada: Ashish Bagai (c), Rizwan Cheema, Harvir Baidwan, Nitish Kumar, Hiral Patel, Tyson Gordon, Henry Osinde, John Davison, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Parth Desai, Karl Whatham, Khurram Chohan, Jimmy Hansra, Zubin Surkari, Balaji Rao.
Umpires: Amish Saheba (IND) and Billy Bowden (NZL)
TV umpire: Richard Kettleborough (ENG)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)
Match starts at 14:30 hrs (IST).