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September 28, 2002
1240 IST

Pool A:
Aus | Ban | NZ

Pool B:
Ind | Eng | Zim

Pool C:
Ken | SA | WI

Pool D:
Ned | Pak | SL

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No excuses from Ricky Ponting

Brian Murgatroyd

Australian captain Ricky Ponting refused to blame the R.Premadasa Stadium pitch for his side's seven-wicket Champions Trophy defeat by Sri Lanka on Friday, but said it was not ideal for one-day cricket.

Ponting's world champions, confronted with a turning surface that assisted Sri Lanka's five spinners, crumbled to 162 all out and the home side then romped to a place in Sunday's final against India with 10 overs to spare.

Afterwards Ponting preferred to focus on the way his team had been second best throughout the day.

"That was disappointing, the worst performance we've put up in a long time," Ponting told reporters. "We were totally outplayed in every aspect of the game -- batting, bowling and fielding.

"We got off to a good start but the wicket turned a lot more than we thought it would and earlier in the game, after seven or eight overs.

"The wicket was too slow and low and not ideal for one-day cricket but I'm not blaming that. We didn't play the spin very well, there's no doubt about that.

"It was the turning point of the game when they put the spinners on early, they put us under pressure and we didn't cope. We weren't good enough today," he said.

The introduction of Aravinda de Silva's part-time off-spinners was crucial to Sri Lanka's dominance as he claimed one for 16 and was never mastered.

Australia appeared to play de Silva as if they had no idea how to deal with him, but although Ponting said the quality of his bowling was a surprise, he said his appearance at the bowling crease was not.

"We knew they had a few part-timers like Aravinda de Silva and Russel Arnold as well as the three spinners they picked and we knew there was a fair chance they would use them all," said Ponting.

"But for Aravinda to bowl as well as he did was a big surprise to all of us as he didn't bowl too many bad balls, he bowled to his field and the fielding was very sharp," he added.


Ponting also refused to blame his team's weekend break in the Maldives for their abject performance.

"The worst thing we could have done was to have trained every day. All the players were well prepared and had enough cricket and practice and we trained well for the three days before the match.

"We just didn't deliver the skills well enough today," he added.

Not surprisingly, Sri Lanka's captain Sanath Jayasuriya had a slightly different view of the pitch.

"We've been playing a lot of games at the Khettarama (R.Premadasa Stadium) which is why the wicket is getting slower and slower," he said.

"It's up to the curator and he's trying his best but it was not a bad wicket.

"We know they're not very good against spin and our conditions which is why we used Aravinda and Kumar Dharmasena early on.

"We had a plan and we went with that, and we came back into the game very quickly after that," he added.

Jayasuriya said Sri Lanka could now go all the way and lift the Champions Trophy on Sunday when they face India in the final.

"You never know, it's all on the day and both sides have strength in batting but we have the better bowling attack," said Jayasuriya.

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