x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Vettori banks on new-found resilience and character

Few fans would have ruled out Australia's progress today's Champions Trophy final.

Few fans would have ruled out Australia's progress today's Champions Trophy final. New Zealand, their opponents at Centurion, however, were never expected to make it this far. Underrated until they shocked Pakistan by five wickets in their semi-final on Saturday, the Kiwis are the underdogs against their Trans-Tasmanic rivals, having only won 30 of 117 meetings.
"We probably have a reputation of getting up against them, but the results haven't quite been there," said captain Daniel Vettori yesterday. "I think we've been poor against them as of late. "They are a pretty impressive side and that's the reason why they've sort of hovered around that No 1 ranking for a long time." Having said that, Vettori said his team would go all out to win the title that they last won in 2000.
"I'm really proud of the team. We've won all different types of games and we've got one more to go on a different wicket. Hopefully we've got one more left in us," the left-arm spinner added. "We have not played well lately, until this tournament. But there is a belief in this team now. We know Australia will play well and we know they have great players but we have to think about what we are going to do."
The resilience of Vettori's team has got them to this match, and he lead from the front against Pakistan, taking three wickets and making 41 runs. Grant Elliott, suffering from a broken thumb, gritted his teeth as he put together 75 not out off 103 balls. He may pay the price after the tournament when the thumb will require splinting for weeks, but his team sealed their place against Australia as they reached their target of 234 with 13 balls to spare.
"Grant played an innings of such character," said Vettori. "It was an outstanding 75 and he will be very proud of his innings and I know the team are really proud of the way he played." Australia are rarely lacking in confidence, especially after captain Ricky Ponting hit an unruffled century against England in the other semi-final, becoming the Champions Trophy's leading run-scorer. But Ponting said even winning today would not compensate for the summer Ashes defeat to England.
"This doesn't make up anything," he said. "The Ashes is done and dusted and we weren't good enough to win that series, unfortunately. We are a different group of players here now, who are focused on one-day cricket. "If we happen to play well and win the tournament, I think we will look back on the past five months as being a really good period in Australian cricket. "We have introduced a lot of guys to international cricket - a lot of guys have got 20-30 games under their belt and 10 or 12 Test matches and are really starting to find out what international cricket is all about.
"If you look ahead to the next 12 months I think this current group of players will be taking the Australian cricket team a long way forward," he added.
stregoning@thenational.ae
Australia v New Zealand, 4.30pm, ART Prime Sport