World Cup 2019: Loss to SA, injury setback not ideal for Australia, says Ponting

Australia’s defeat in its final group-stage game to South Africa on Saturday was compounded by injuries to Usman Khawaja (hamstring) and Marcus Stoinis (side).

Ricky Ponting says the injuries to Marcus Stoinis and Usman Khawaja have come at an inopportune time with Australia facing England in the semifinals.   -  Reuters

Australia’s assistant coach Ricky Ponting has admitted that his injury-ravaged team, beaten by South Africa in the last league game of the World Cup, is facing a tough situation but says the players can find a way to play their best game in the semifinal.

Australia’s defeat in its final group-stage game to South Africa on Saturday was compounded by injuries to Usman Khawaja (hamstring) and Marcus Stoinis (side) that saw Matthew Wade and Mitchell Marsh pulled out of the Australia A tour to join the World Cup squad as cover.

Shaun Marsh had already been ruled out of the tournament after suffering a fractured wrist in a net session.

The defending champion plays pre-tournament favourite England in the second semifinals on Thursday.

“It’s not unusual to have disruptions in World Cups. In the last group game before a semifinal is probably a little bit different. If you’re totally honest, it’s not ideal to have these sort of changes going into a World Cup semifinal, especially now we know we’re playing England, the favourites coming into the tournament,” Ponting said.

“It’s up to us coaches to make it as easy as possible for those guys coming in, talking through scenarios and situations and just trying to keep them as free in the mind as possible,” he was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.

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Despite losing to South Africa in its last league match, which resulted in India taking the top spot on the points table, Ponting said Australia has been the best side of the tournament to date.

“We’ve beaten England already in the tournament. I think it’s fair to say we’ve been the standout team of the tournament to date. A loss now, although it’s not ideal going into a semifinal, it’s probably not the worst thing either. It could be a bit of a wake-up, a bit of a freshen up and a bit of a reset. It might just make us a better team.

“Australia’s best game has to be in the semifinal, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

Ponting stressed at the beginning of the tournament that peaking at the back-end of a World Cup, rather than in the initial stages, must be Australia’s major priority.

“We’ve been talking about it, we’ve been building up, looking for that perfect game of cricket. As good as we’ve been in the tournament, we haven’t done that yet and we were a long way off doing it (against South Africa).

“That’s what the focus will be. It’s up to the players now to find another level to beat England.”

He said Australia had in the past dealt with notable hurdles at the three 50-over trophies Ponting won in 1999, 2003 and 2007.

“I think back to 2003 with (Shane) Warne ruled out before a ball was bowled, (Jason) Gillespie played one game and was ruled out, we had Michael Bevan going into the tournament with injury and Darren Lehmann suspended going in. We had a bit going on there,” said the former captain.

“Fast forward to 2007 and Andrew Symonds didn’t play the first half of the tournament.”

But, asked if he’d had any quite like the ones the team is facing now, the 44-year-old said: “Probably not at the end of a tournament.”