Gillespie's loss of form perplexes Ponting

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The Independent Online

But the drive from Leeds to London on Thursday evening must have been the quietest yet. The atrocities that took place in the capital would have put the concerns of losing a game of cricket to England into perspective, but the manner of the nine-wicket defeat will have left the Australians questioning themselves as tomorrow's game at Lord's approaches.

At the conclusion of the Headingley game Ponting was reluctant to blame his side's defeat on the toss. Michael Vaughan accepted that it did play a huge role in the result. Yet Ponting did not hold back when he talked about the disappointing form of his team. The 31-year-old feels Australia need to improve every facet of their game in the two weeks before the first Test at Lord's.

The tourists' top order are out of form but the bowling of Jason Gillespie will be his biggest concern. The 30-year-old has enjoyed playing against England, with 62 of his 248 Test victims coming in Ashes contests. But during his month in England he has looked completely out of sorts. In the NatWest Series the South Australian took five wickets at over 50 runs apiece and conceded more than five runs an over.

At Headingley it was clear that England had noted the resultant loss of confidence. The manner in which Marcus Trescothick and Vaughan went after Gillespie - his 10 overs yielded 66 runs - was ruthless.

"I will have a chat with Jason to see how he feels before Sunday's game at Lord's," Ponting said. "I need to know whether he feels he will be better off playing or having a couple of games off leading into the Test series. He was a bit below his best at Headingley, as a few of us were. I was just beginning to think that he was getting it right again, but he has not performed as well as he would have liked. As a batsman I wouldn't like to comment on his bowling technique, but it is probably more of a confidence thing. One-day cricket puts you under more pressure as a bowler and he may be putting himself under a bit too much pressure."

Gillespie and Brett Lee's inconsistency allowed England's top order to score confidence-boosting runs. "This is one of the major losses for us in the game," Ponting said. "Trescothick got away from us, after being out off a no-ball. We allowed [Andrew] Strauss to play the way he likes to play - we bowled too short at him. We need to be more precise in the way we execute our plans and this will be vital going into the Tests."

Gillespie's loss of confidence and Shane Watson's thigh strain should give Michael Kasprowicz the chance to push his case for a place in the Test side. The fast bowler played in three NatWest Series matches before losing out to Watson.

England are unlikely to change a winning formula, and tomorrow's game gives them the perfect stage on which to confirm their authoritative position over Australia.

Natwest Challenge (second match, Lord's tomorrow): England (probable): M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, K E Pietersen, A Flintoff, P D Collingwood, G O Jones (wkt), A F Giles, S P Jones, D Gough, S J Harmison. Substitute: V S Solanki.

Australia (probable): R T Ponting (capt), M L Hayden, A C Gilchrist (wkt), D R Martyn, A Symonds, M J Clarke, M E K Hussey, G B Hogg, B Lee, J N Gillespie, G D McGrath. Substitute: M S Kasprowicz.