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Ponting seeks Twenty20 improvement

Australia captain Ricky Ponting leaned back in his chair and smiled slightly when asked what could have been a slightly embarrassing question, what did he think of his Twenty20 form?.

"I think you'd probably be better off asking someone else that question," Ponting said, and with good reason. "The past couple of games I've played have been very poor. In the two games in South Africa, I made 1 in each. It's not great form going into a World Cup."

In fact, Ponting's best score in his last four matches of the super-shortened game is 38. Already a proven performer in Test and limited-overs internationals, the 34-year-old Ponting sounded less confident of hitting form at the Twenty20 World Cup, which starts Friday at Lord's.

Ponting will play his 16th Twenty20 international when he leads Australia in its tournament opener against West Indies on Saturday. And he knows the vagaries of the Twenty20 game don't always suit his talents.

"Batting where I do in the top order of Twenty20 cricket, it can sometimes be a bit difficult," Ponting said. "Obviously, the earlier you get in the better chance you've got of making a big score, but you're expected to play in a certain way. Top-order batsmen are always going to have their ups and downs in that sort of game."

Other players in addition to Ponting in Australia's squad who have also been selected for the following Ashes series are vice captain Michael Clarke, batsman Mike Hussey, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, fast bowlers Peter Siddle, Brett Lee, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson, injury-prone all-rounder Shane Watson and off spinner Nathan Hauritz.

Lee hasn't bowled for Australia since operations on his foot and ankle in December. Watson played as a batsman in Australia's five limited-overs internationals against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, but has not bowled since last November because of stress fractures in his back and a groin injury.

Australia's squad has considerable bowling depth with the inclusion of Johnson and Siddle, who were rested from the recent series against Pakistan, Nathan Bracken, James Hopes and Hauritz. Ponting was also rested from the ODI series against Pakistan after a hectic five months. All-rounders Andrew Symonds and Cameron White are also part of the squad.

Symonds, one of the stars of Deccan Chargers' win in the IPL final, was a controversial omission from the Ashes squad but his aggressive hitting and ability to bowl either spin or medium pace will give the Australians an added dimension at the World Cup.

Australia played in the first Twenty20 international on Feb. 17, 2005 at Auckland's Eden Park against New Zealand, where an in-form Ponting hit 98 not out in leading his team to a 44-run win.

Australia has played 21 Twenty20 matches, and is 11-10 overall, including a 5-4 win-loss mark in 2007 when its record included a semifinal loss to eventual champion India in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa.

This year, Australia is 3-3, but is on a three-match losing streak going into the World Cup. Australia beat South Africa in two matches in January, then edged New Zealand in a match in Sydney in February by 1 run.

Since then, it lost twice to the Proteas in March in South Africa and to Pakistan, by seven wickets, earlier this month in Dubai.

Bracken has played in a leading 18 Twenty20 matches for Australia and heads the team in wickets with 19.

David Warner, who made his international T20 debut before establishing himself in first-class cricket, is also in the World Cup squad. The stocky, freewheeling stroke-player has hit the fastest 50 for Australia, in just 19 balls.

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