Ponting's scratch side leave India to lick their wounds

England beware: Australia are once more rebuilding in style after an Ashes defeat, writes Robin Scott-Elliot

The last time England had the temerity to win the Ashes it sparked an Australian backlash so savage the next series was done and dusted in fewer than 15 days. Less than three months after Ricky Ponting handed over the urn again and a year ahead of England's next trip Down Under, the green and gold shoots of recovery are already visible. Today they play the last of their seven-match one-day series in India with victory already secure, and that follows their crushing one-day victory in England and an assured march to the Champions Trophy.

What makes Australia's feat in India, which Ponting considers to be as notable as winning the World Cup or the Champions Trophy, all the more remarkable is that they have done it with what has effectively been a scratch side. For today's game they will be without nine players through injury, while two more – Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson – have been sent home for a well-earned break. But in place of the likes of Michael Clarke, Nathan Bracken and Brett Lee, Shaun Marsh has scored his first ODI century, Doug Bollinger has kept India's much vaunted batting line-up in check and Clint McKay has come from nowhere to also impress with the ball.

There could be three more debutants today. The seamer Burt Cockley, who has played all of four domestic one-day games, the all-rounder Andrew McDonald and Jon Holland, a slow left-armer, are in line to make it a who's who of unknown Aussies in Mumbai today.

"I would rate this series triumph alongside the World Cup and Champions Trophy victories," said Ponting. "There's a World Cup 12 months away that we're starting to build towards and this squad we've used over the recent past should keep us in really good shape."

Which is more than can be said for India, who have been left to lick their wounds. They may rule the cricket world off the field, but on it these last few months have been something of an embarrassment. This series defeat follows the failure of the Indian sides in the Champions League – won by New South Wales and their prime crop of young Australian talent: Philip Hughes, David Warner, Moises Henriques – and an underwhelming display in the Champions Trophy. It is not how the hosts of the 2011 World Cup envisaged beginning their build-up to the tournament.

"A majority of the batsmen haven't contributed at the same time," said Mahendra Dhoni, India's captain, and the only batsman to produce any sort of consistency. Sachin Tendulkar made one dazzling contribution with his 175 in Hyderabad, but India's challenge fell short there for a lack of support and they still too often resemble a disparate collection of individual talents. The contrast with Australia's mend and make do approach is stark.

9

The number of Australia players missing through injury for today's ODI against India.

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