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Twenty20 now serious stuff for Aussies

Australia's cricketers will be taking Twenty20 cricket a lot more seriously now after defeat against Zimbabwe.

An embarrassing defeat to lowly Zimbabwe on Friday night in the inaugural world championship, in South Africa, means Ricky Ponting and his men are no longer thinking of the ultra-short game as hit and giggle.

And domestic sides like NSW, who last season employed the services of rugby league player Andrew Johns in a match solely as a promotional aid, might also become a bit more focused given the potential riches on the horizon.

While cricket's latest world title race continued in South Africa, in India the game's powers announced a new initiative, the annual Champions Twenty20.

The new competition will take the best two domestic teams out of each of Australia, South Africa, England and India and let them fight it out for a share of $US5 million ($A5.95 million) in prizemoney.

The inaugural competition, likened to soccer's European Champions League, will be played in October 2008 and given cricket's desire to infiltrate new markets, it could be held in New York City or Beijing.

Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath are expected to commit to Indian teams, which means Australia's two recently-retired greats might find themselves playing against their compatriots and former state teammates.

While the thought of playing against other strong domestic teams in exotic locations for huge prizemoney is a boon for Australia's domestic cricketers, Ponting must wish he could call on his two former trump cards.

Ponting's men were limited to 9-138 by Zimbabwe in Cape Town, and the Africans defied their lowly status by winning with five wickets and a ball to spare.

"We're embarrassed, and we should be," Ponting said afterwards.

"There might be a lot of Australians back home who feel the same way as well."

Australia must now beat England on Friday to be any chance of avoiding an early exit from the championship, although Ponting said his side's first-up loss meant they deserved whatever came their way.

Forget fun. Twenty20 is now serious stuff.

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