As Australia looks beyond its disastrous World Cup semi-final to the looming Ashes series, assistant coach Ricky Ponting believes his team was defeated by the eventual one-day champions.
Ponting has told cricket.com.au that England is in the box seat to defeat New Zealand in Sunday night’s final (AEST) and it could make the Ashes an even more challenging assignment.
Australia’s shock loss in Thursday’s semi-final has prompted some soul-searching in the Australian camp, although Ponting said the hosts were always going to be tough to beat.
“I had them as the favourites coming in, nothing changes now,” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “New Zealand have done amazingly well to get into the final and well done to them.
“Two consecutive World Cup finals is an awesome achievement for that group and they’ll have some experiences to take out of that last final, whereas none of the England players have played in a final before.
“That being said, I think there’s just a bit too much class in this England side for them not to win.”
That confidence has been banished from the England squad though, with coach Trevor Bayliss saying he would be taking nothing for granted against the in-form New Zealanders.
“There is going to be a lot of noise around ‘you guys are the favourites’ but we can’t listen to any of that,” he told the BBC.
“We have just got to concentrate on the way we have gone about our cricket over the past four years and what has got us to this point.
“We have to go through our process. If we do that, we know we will play good cricket and the opposition will have to play even better to beat us.”
New Zealand’s hopes rest on another strong showing from skipper Kane Williamson who has been their top scorer in four of eight World Cup matches.
Meanwhile, Australian coach Justin Langer has turned his attention to the Ashes with the prospect of a strong fast-bowling outfit setting the team up for the ultimate success.
Australia’s multi-format players have been given a week off to recover from the one-day campaign, with most getting away from cricket. But less than three weeks out from the first Test at Edgbaston on August 1, Langer’s mind won’t stop ticking.
Australia is in pursuit of their first Ashes series win on English soil since 2001, a tour which Langer began as a No.3 batsman and ended as opener alongside Matthew Hayden.
“I’ve had my heart set on July 14 (the World Cup final) for probably 12 months,” Langer said.
“We got to July 11, we fell a few days short. That’s disappointing. We would have liked to be there. We’d rather be in England’s (position). But we have to turn to it now.
We know this has been an unprecedented time in Australian cricket, a World Cup and then an Ashes.
“We’ll dust ourselves off, recharge our batteries, there will probably be six or seven guys (from the World Cup squad) who will be in the Ashes as well.
“We need to recharge and then start a whole new campaign. We’ll take some lessons out of this but it’s another big campaign.”
Langer was unsure what impact an England win or loss in Sunday’s World Cup final against New Zealand would have on their Ashes campaign. But he knows what he has in his stocks.
This series will mark the first time in their international careers that quicks Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson are all fit and available at the same time.
Jhye Richardson could also still feature, with the West Australian quick understood to be fit to return to cricket for a tour match between the first and second Tests.
Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood are considered the favourites for August 1, but Pattinson took seven wickets in Australia A’s opening red-ball tour match while Hazlewood took none.
Australia A play again against the England Lions in a four-day match starting Sunday, before the 22-man all-Australia match in Southampton on July 23.
“It’s nice to have them all fit,” Langer said. “For the Ashes we have a number of very good players who are up and running which is good.
“Jhye Richardson, who is a very exciting talent, he’ll come back into the fold at some stage.
“We’ve got lots of bowling talent in Australia. The key is to keep them fit and healthy. And if we do that we’ll always be competitive.”