‘Australia will be tough to beat’, warns Ponting

SYDNEY, Feb 28, 2007 (AFP) – Australia captain Ricky Ponting warned Wednesday that despite some recent poor form the world champions will be “extremely hard to beat” at the upcoming cricket World Cup. Speaking to reporters at Sydney airport as the team flew out to the Caribbean in search of a third straight World Cup victory, Ponting said he believed his team deserved to remain favourites.

“There’s been a bit of negativity around the team over the last couple of weeks, but I guess that’s to be expected when you’re not playing your absolute best and we certainly haven’t done that,” Ponting said.

The Australians go into the competition after suffering five straight one-day defeats — two against England and three against New Zealand.

But Ponting pointed out that the 3-0 whitewash by New Zealand in the recent Chappell-Hadlee trophy was achieved against a weakened team.

“We’ve had up to six or seven of our top 11 players out as well, which probably hasn’t been reported that much over the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“I know there’s a big challenge ahead for the players. It doesn’t get any bigger than a World Cup so if we can’t lift ourselves up and play some good cricket in thi