Champions trophy: No excuses now for us, says Ponting

Mohali, October 31:

Australian captain Ricky Ponting has urged his team to go flat out to make their first ever Champions Trophy final when they clash with New Zealand in Wednesday’s semi-final.

“There are no excuses now for us,” Ponting said ahead of the day-night clash at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium. “We’ve a good team, we’ve got a full list of guys to pick from and we’re playing a semi-final at a venue that we’ve just played a game on.We can’t complain, with the way things have worked out for us.”

Australia have not progressed beyond the semi-finals in the four previous Champions Trophy tournaments despite being the number one side with back-to-back World Cup victories in 1999 and 2003.

Australia knocked out hosts India here on Sunday to set up a potentially absorbing semi-final against the in-form Black Caps, who defeated world number two South Africa and Pakistan in the group stage.

Australia have won 15 of their last 17 matches against their Tasman neighbours, but lost the most recent one in December last year when New Zealand successfully chased a target of 331 at Christchurch.

“I think the conditions that we’re playing in here will probably suit them a little bit,” said Ponting. “It will be a big game against New Zealand and a great challenge for all of us.” New Zealand, who won the Champions Trophy in 2000, will miss key all-rounder Scott Styris, who has not recovered from a back injury suffered against Pakistan last week.

“He has not been able to practice, its unlikely be will play,” Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming said of Styris, whose 86 against Pakistan helped the team qualify for the semi-finals.

“We will miss him because he showed the other day what he’s capable of in big games. But it gives others a chance to make up for his loss,” he added.

Without Styris, whose century won the last game against Australia in Christchurch, New Zealand may struggle to cope with their rivals bowling attack of Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Nathan Bracken, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson.

New Zealand’s own pace spearhead Shane Bond is also troubled with a hamstring niggle, but Fleming said a decision on him will not be made till Wednesday morning. The Kiwis will be hoping Bond is fit since he will be their trumpcard on a wicket that assisted bounce and movement in the previous match played here.