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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 February, 2004, 13:37 GMT
Ponting era translates to Tests
By Martin Gough

Just a month ago, Australia had to scrap to avoid what would have been a disastrous home Test series defeat to India.

Ponting lifts another one-day trophy
Australia's one-day side have won 84% of matches in the Ponting era
Now, at the end of an arduous tour, India are heading home with their tails between the legs, after suffering a beating in the one-day VB Series.

After four years at the very top of Test cricket, Australia are showing occasional signs of vulnerability and must rebuild after captain Steve Waugh's retirement.

Meanwhile the one-day side is leading the world, and offers a template for the more traditional version of the game.

Although the World Cup is one-day cricket's showpiece event, the knockout format can only single out the side that performs best in a one-off game in certain conditions.

Since Ricky Ponting took over from Waugh as captain, Australia's limited-overs team have proved their dominance against every team, and in almost every location.

The Ponting era, which began in March 2002 and includes three games with Adam Gilchrist standing in as skipper, is now 66 games old.

After Sunday's 208-run victory in the second VB Series final, they have 53 victories and 10 losses - a win percentage of 84.

ONE-DAY FIXTURES 2004
Feb: Five-match series in Sri Lanka
June: Three-match series in Zimbabwe
Aug: Tri-series v India, Pakistan in Netherlands
Sept: ICC Champions Trophy in England
South Africa, second in the International Cricket Council's official one-day rankings, suffered a 5-1 thrashing at home in Ponting's first series at the helm.

And even on the dusty surfaces of the subcontinent India - generally considered among the best of the rest - won just one of four encounters with Australia in November.

Two challenges remain for Ponting's side - beating Sri Lanka away from home and winning the ICC Champions Trophy.

They fly out to Sri Lanka on Friday for a five-match series and have another chance at the Champions Trophy in England this September.

Critics believed they were jumping the gun in dropping Waugh two years ago but the policy of culling older players well in advance of the World Cup worked for a second time.

Rahul Dravid congratulates Waugh
Now Waugh has retired, Australia have a chance to rebuild
In contrast, the Test side has tinkered with changes in the last 18 months without imposing the overhaul that was increasingly required.

On 20 February, when they name the Test squad for Sri Lanka, the selectors have a chance to make major changes with an eye to October's eagerly-anticipated return series in India.

A look at the one-day side will provide some answers.

Twenty-two-year-old Michael Clarke was tagged as Waugh's natural successor more than a year ago and some mature performances in the yellow shirt - he averages 41.69 after 19 games - have enhanced his reputation.

Five years after his one-day international debut, Andrew Symonds is providing evidence he could do well as back-up Test batsman, adding orthodoxy to his brutal approach.

TEST FIXTURES 2004
March: Three-match series in Sri Lanka
May: Two-match series in Zimbabwe
July: Two-match home series v Sri Lanka
Oct: Series in India
Nov-Jan: Home series v Pakistan and West Indies
However, the Test side must look elsewhere for inspiration when it comes to bowling, as one-day wickets come as much from a batsmen's frustration as a bowler's ability.

Brad Williams was Australia's leading wicket-taker in the VB Series, gaining a chance to settle at international level after he failed to impress in his first three Tests.

If the selectors are running out of patience there are a batch of young bowlers in state cricket who could leapfrog one-day regulars like Nathan Bracken and veteran Andy Bichel.

A one-day type approach to spin bowling, using part-timer Simon Katich to fill the breech in Tests, is likely to be abandoned immediately Shane Warne proves he is fit after his year-long drugs ban.

The one-day side has conquered all; the Test side has one remaining challenge.

And Australia know they must change gear if they are to beat India at home.




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