Ponting furious at 'embarrassing' Australia defeat

Australia 342-5 - Somerset 345-6 <i>Somerset win by 4 wickets</i>
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The Independent Online

It would be premature and ill-advised to suggest that the wheels have fallen off Australia's tour of England after four limited-over games but the world champions looked a pretty forlorn lot at the conclusion of yesterday's sensational four-wicket defeat to Somerset.

It would be premature and ill-advised to suggest that the wheels have fallen off Australia's tour of England after four limited-over games but the world champions looked a pretty forlorn lot at the conclusion of yesterday's sensational four-wicket defeat to Somerset.

When Ricky Ponting's side compiled 342 for 5 in their 50 overs, few in a capacity crowd of 7,000 gave the home side any hope of pulling off a victory. But an exceptional opening partnership of 197 in just 22.2 overs between Graeme Smith and Sanath Jayasuriya sent the tourists crashing to their second defeat in three days.

"It was pretty embarrassing," said Ponting. "We will have a chat about what took place but if we continue playing as we have done in the last couple of games we will have our work cut out to beat Bangladesh on Saturday.

"Not being able to defend 342 is very disappointing and I am angry about the way we played in the second part of the game. We weren't smart enough to start with and good enough to change our plans when Smith and Jayasuriya were hitting us around. Our fielding was disappointing, too. We take pride in our fielding saving us 20 to 30 runs but on this occasion it cost us that many."

Against England at the Rose Bowl on Monday, when the tourists were bowled out for 79 in a Twenty20 match, it was the batting which let them down. But after conceding 345 runs in 46.5 overs it was the bowlers who would have had their heads in towels on their arrival in the dressing-room.

Bill Brown, Australia's oldest living Test cricketer, stated at the start of this tour that he thought Ponting's side could emulate the Invincibles in 1948, and remain unbeaten on their tour of England. Brown was a member of Don Bradman's all-conquering side and it is to be hoped that the shockwaves these two results will have sent across Australia do not affect his or the other living Invincibles' health.

The County Ground in Taunton has seen many extraordinary batting displays but Viv Richards and Ian Botham in their pomp would have struggled to live with Somerset's openers. Both smashed hundreds, with Smith's coming up off 68 balls and Jayasuriya's off 77.

The only disappointment for England supporters is that the carnage was caused by two overseas players. None the less Michael Vaughan will be grateful to them for further denting the Australians' confidence.

No bowler escaped a flogging. Glenn McGrath had 49 runs scored off his 10 overs, but the severest punishment was saved for Michael Kasprowicz who conceded 89 in eight overs. A miserable day for Australia was compounded by the fact that Brett Lee left the field after four overs with a shoulder injury. The fast bowler will have a scan on the injury today but there must be doubts over whether he will play in the early matches of the NatWest series.

During England's winter tour of South Africa, Smith's batting received plenty of criticism but the manner in which he struck the ball brought back memories of 2003 when he scored 277 and 259 in consecutive Test matches against England.

Jayasuriya has had a miserable two months at the county, but the scent of international opposition brought out the best in him. In comparison to Smith the Sri Lankan looked sedate but there were still plenty of trademark carves over gully and pick-ups over mid-wicket during his century.

The 35-year-old smashed McGrath for three boundaries in his sixth over and Shane Watson was pulled for a huge six. Ponting rotated his bowlers but it failed to make any difference. In 10 overs of mayhem Smith and Jayasuriya plundered 121 runs. Smith reached three figures when he cut Kasprowicz for four, and his second 50 runs came off just 26 deliveries.

The fun ended when Smith was stumped but Jayasuriya continued playing in his positive way until he was caught at fine leg. Somerset were now on 231 for 2 but this quickly became 291 for 6 as Australia clawed their way back into the game. With 52 required off 45 balls it appeared as though the openers' heroics would be wasted, but James Hildreth and Carl Gazzard made light work of the equation and the partisan home crowd was sent into raptures when Gazzard leg glanced Watson for four with 19 balls remaining.

Australia achieved the objective of giving their top six batsmen time at the crease in slightly controversial style - Matthew Hayden and Ponting retired themselves out once they had taken all they wanted from the game.

But the good gained from the morning was quickly forgotten during an amazing afternoon of cricket.

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