COLOMBO (AFP) - Ricky Ponting warned Australia on Sunday that the defending champions must learn the harsh lessons of their shattering defeat to Pakistan if they want to stay in the World Cup.
Australia lost by four wickets to Shahid Afridi’s men, a defeat which ended their 34-match unbeaten streak in the tournament stretching back to the 1999 edition.
It could also mean they face a titanic struggle against India in the quarter-finals.
Australia went down by four wickets in a hard-fought Group A clash, bowled out for just 176 against a spirited Pakistan bowling attack which was led by Umar Gul who took 3-30.
Paceman Brett Lee raised hopes of an Australian victory with four wickets but Pakistan pulled off the win, and took top spot in Group A, with nine overs to spare.
Umar Akmal, with an unbeaten 44 and a gritty 46 from Asad Shafiq, laid the foundations for a Pakistan win.
“We have to learn from the defeat and we have to learn quickly,” said Ponting, whose team finished third in Group A behind Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
They seem likely to face title favourites India at Ahmedabad on Thursday.
“If we play India in Ahmedabad, then you can guarantee the same situations are going to pop up again, and we’ll have to handle them a whole lot better than we did against Pakistan,” said Ponting.
The Australian captain, whose team are chasing a fourth successive world title, believes the loss of the 34-match unbeaten record will not hurt his team.
“I know for a fact the guys haven’t been thinking about the streak at all, because it hasn’t been mentioned around our group,” he said.
“I think the fact that we’ve played a good Pakistan team and we’ve come up short will get all the guys thinking just exactly what they need to be thinking about and the way they need to play to win World Cup games.”
Ponting believed Australia failed to put up a fighting total on a two-paced R. Premadasa stadium pitch.
“It’s a disappointing loss for us. We won the toss and batted on a reasonable wicket, a wicket that certainly had more than 170 runs in it for us. The bounce was a bit inconsistent but it didn’t spin much and the ball came on at a reasonable pace.
“At one stage we were 70 or 80-1 and it looked like we were going to post a 240-250 total.
“We had a big collapse in the middle of the innings and that allowed us to only make 176,” said Ponting whose team lost their last seven wickets for 59 runs. Ponting made 19 before being caught behind off spinner Mohammad Hafeez. It went to a review after he had initially been given not out.
Ponting said he knew he had edged the ball. “There were no doubts about the nick, I knew I hit it, but as always I wait for the umpire to give me out. That’s the way I’ve always played the game.
“That’s right, the umpire gave me not out,” said Ponting of umpire Marias Erasmus’s decision.
Aussie juggernaut finally screeches to a halt
COLOMBO, March 19 (Reuters) - It took 12 years and 35 games but a World Cup opponent finally found a way to beat Australia on Saturday as their proud unbeaten run in the sport’s showpiece tournament was finally snapped by Pakistan.
Way back in 1999 in England, it was against the same opponents that Australia had lost their last match in a World Cup before they embarked on their glorious journey of winning the next three titles consecutively.
It was an uncharacteristic batting collapse for the four-times world champions as they were shot out for a meagre 176 -- their lowest World Cup total since 1992 -- with speedster Umar Gul being the wrecker-in-chief.
Australia’s loss on Saturday meant that all teams in the tournament have now lost at least one match heading into next week’s quarter-finals. The era of total Australian domination is over. Who can replace them as champions -- if anyone - is still very much up for grabs.