x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Australia's Ricky Ponting expecting to be fit for Cricket World Cup

Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, is confident he will be fit to play in this month's World Cup despite a recent finger injury.

Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, is confident he will be fit to play in this month's World Cup despite a recent finger injury.

Ponting, who missed the final Ashes Test and the entire seven-match one-day international (ODI) series against England after surgery for a broken little finger, said yesterday that the injury was improving quickly.

"It's a lot better now than it was last week," Ponting said at the Allan Border Medal presentation in Melbourne.

"I've been back in the nets this week, I've had three good hits, a bit of time out there, so it's actually probably a bit further advanced than I thought it would be."

Australia go into the World Cup, which starts on February 19 in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, in search of a fourth consecutive title.

Ponting said he had endured a frustrating month on the sidelines, but believed the way the team had performed in his absence, thrashing England 6-1 in their ODI series, showed they were ready to defend their crown.

He said it was difficult playing on the subcontinent, but the Australian squad, which leaves tomorrow, had the players who had proven themselves under those conditions.

"We go in there with a well-balanced team as far as youth and experience is concerned and players that have had some success there in the past," Ponting said.

Elsewhere, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has backed the International Cricket Council (ICC) anti-corruption tribunal which banned three Pakistan cricketers on Saturday for spot-fixing.

Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, said the minimum suspension of five years on Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer is "regrettable and a sad reality which must be faced".

The tribunal found all three players guilty of corruption after allegations that Asif and Aamer bowled no-balls at pre-arranged times during the fourth Test against England at Lord's in August last year.

Aamer's lawyer, Shahid Karim, has said he would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, while Salman has said he would consider doing so, too.

The PCB initially backed the trio after The News of the World, the British tabloid newspaper, reported the spot-fixing. It even named them in the squad to play a one-day series against England before the ICC provisionally suspended them.

The PCB chairman described the last six months as "extremely painful for Pakistan cricket", adding: "I now hope this unfortunate saga is put to rest and we can concentrate on cricket."

Pakistan, considered dark horses to win the World Cup, are in Group A, along with Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand

Jacob Oram has been passed fit to travel with the rest of the New Zealand team to India today.

Oram withdrew from the team for the final one-day international against Pakistan on Saturday after injuring his ankle.

However, an MRI scan, X-ray and a medical assessment have all shown there is no lasting damage.

Oram is expected to be available for warm-up matches against Ireland on February 12 and India on February 16.

Meanwhile, angry fans waved banners and shouted slogans yesterday as an ICC inspection team assessed whether Eden Gardens in Kolkata could host three World Cup games after losing its first match to Bangalore.

Eden Gardens was stripped of the India versus England game on February 27 after an ICC delegation said the venue was underprepared due to a delay in construction work.

A three-member inspection team returned yesterday to assess if enough progress had been made to save three other matches - none featuring India.

* Agencies