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Matt Prior, left, a doubtful starter for England, walks alongside Steven Davies ahead of a fitness test at the Centurion.
Matt Prior, left, a doubtful starter for England, walks alongside Steven Davies ahead of a fitness test at the Centurion.

Confident Ponting wipes the slate clean

Australia look for a repeat in semi-final and the captain hopes to exploit the weaknesses of England having recently thrashed them 6-1.

Ricky Ponting is hoping his Australian team can continue their dominance over England in 50-over cricket in today's semi-final at the Champions Trophy. Despite losing the Ashes in England, Ponting's men had the consolation of humiliating their opponents in the one-day NatWest series as they comfortably triumphed 6-1.

While the Australian captain expects a stronger performance from England in the clash in Centurion, Ponting could not stop himself from scoring some brownie points playing up the mental advantage due to their recent performances. "Although it is a case of wiping the slate clean because the semi-final will be played in different conditions and there have been personnel changes, I would much rather have won that series 6-1 than lost it 6-1," he said.

"It means we played very well against them, we've played a lot against them in the last month and we know all their strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, we will be able to exploit that," he added. Australia beat Pakistan in their final game on Wednesday to book their spot in the last four, but they will have to get past England without vice captain Michael Clarke who has returned home to a chronic lower-back problem.

The ICC cleared the arrival of David Hussey as a replacement and the younger sibling of Michael Hussey, who did well against Pakistan, will have to find his bearings quickly if included. Meanwhile, England have injury problems of their own to worry about as all-rounder Stuart Broad is a major doubt having a muscle tear in his left buttock during Tuesday's match with New Zealand. The England coach Andy Flower said: "He bowled a few overs at full pace in the nets and practised running between the wickets and had a little fielding test.

"He has got a little tear in one of the muscles in his backside, so he's not 100 per cent. "But we're going to give him a little more time to see if he can be fit for the game, and give him another test in the morning." Wicketkeeper Matt Prior's participation in the game is also in question as he recovers from an illness that forced him to sit out the games with South Africa and New Zealand. If he doesn't pass a late fitness test then Eoin Morgan is expected to deputise behind the stumps again.

Meanwhile, spinner Graeme Swann believes his side are capable of shocking Australia to reach Monday's final, using their historic win at Lord's in the Ashes in July when they won at the ground for the first time since 1934 as inspiration. "History was against us at Lord's this year when we hadn't won for 75 years but we won there and maybe this is a year when everything changes," he said. "Coming off the back of six defeats you are thinking 'this Champions Trophy is three days out there and then we'll get back home and have a bit of a break'.

"But as soon as we got out here there seemed to be - in training, in games - a lift for everyone. There is a good spirit and we have played some exciting cricket. "Straightaway everyone is thinking 'hang on, we have just beaten Sri Lanka and beaten South Africa, they're the tournament favourites, why not go on and win the whole thing?' "The way we played in those first two games we could beat anyone. Obviously in an Australia game there is a little more on it because it is Australia."

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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