We have the advantage against Lanka: Ponting

Colombo: Australian captain Ricky Ponting on Friday fired a series of salvos on the Sri Lankans ahead of tomorrow`s high-profile World Cup match here, saying the pressure of playing at home and pitch conditions could work to the disadvantage of the co-hosts.

Upping the ante on the eve of the crucial Group A match, Ponting said Sri Lanka`s talk of spin trap may not work tomorrow as Premadasa stadium has not got much turn in the previous matches.

He said the pitch conditions could instead work to the advantage of Australia`s three-prong pace battery.

Sri Lanka are considering playing all their three spinners — Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath.

"The wicket is not spinning as much as it used to because it has all been re-laid and there seems to be more pace in it and, watching the second innings of the game (on Thursday when Pakistan beat Canada), it seamed around at night," Ponting told reporters at the pre-match press conference here.

"The first game (Sri Lanka vs Pakistan) was a really high-scoring one and didn`t really favour the spinners as much as they would like. I`m not sure if the Sri Lankans are entirely happy with what they`ve seen with the wicket conditions but it should suit us down to the ground," he said.

He said that home support can be double-edged and "there is huge pressure on all teams from this part of the world" to perform.

"It`s definitely something they (Sri Lanka) have to contend with and I think as the tournament goes on India will have to do the same thing.

"You know the support they get and how good it can be when they are going well but when they aren`t going so well, I think they realise how harsh that support, or so-called support can be, be it public or media pressure," he said.

Ponting said even if Sri Lanka employ a spin-trap and their record-breaking fast bowler Lasith Malinga continues his form, his side would still be hard to beat if his three in-form seamers Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait fire.

"I made it really clear at the start of this tournament that I don`t care who we`re playing against or where we`re playing, if we get these three guys playing as well as we can, then it`s going to be hard work for any team batting against us," Ponting said.

Ponting also said his side have a plan to tackle Malinga who immediately struck form after returning from injury with a career-best 6-38, including his second World Cup hat-trick, against Kenya.

"We have played a fair bit against Malinga over the years. Obviously he had a great game against Kenya, so he was one of the main focuses in our team meetings and we talked about the right ways to tackle him," said Ponting.

"Malinga`s bowling in the middle overs with the older ball was particularly good, so we have to make sure he doesn`t take wickets but we still can`t focus on one of their bowlers," said Ponting, whose team is chasing a fourth consecutive World Cup title.

The two sides played in the final of last edition with Australia walking away with the trophy and Ponting, seeking an unprecedented hat-trick of titles as captain, expects tomorrow`s match to be the toughest for his side so far.

"We really haven`t been pushed too much yet. The Zimbabwe game was a very easy win. We also picked off the runs easily against New Zealand. I think Sri Lanka will be our toughest contest to date in this tournament," Ponting said.

"Sri Lanka were one of the favourites coming into the tournament and although they lost to Pakistan, that didn`t change anything about them, they are a skilled and well-drilled team. Everything points in the direction of a good game tomorrow," he said.

Australia have so far beaten Zimbabwe by 91 runs and New Zealand by seven wickets, stretching their World Cup win streak to 25 successive matches.

World Cup history also favours Australia as they have beaten Sri Lanka in six of their earlier meetings. Their only loss was in Lahore in the 1996 final.

Australia have four points from two games, with Pakistan sitting on top of Group A with six points after three wins from three matches.

The two sides met in the World Cup final in Bridgetown four years ago with Australia winning by 53 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis formula, a controversial end to the showpiece event that finished in virtual darkness.