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Brave new world for Ponting's pioneers

Australian captain Ricky Ponting makes no bones about it, when he lines up fot tonights game he will be a novice at Twenty20 cricket.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting makes no bones about it, when he lines up fot tonights game he will be a novice at Twenty20 cricket.

For a team which prides itself on meticulous preparation, the planning for today's inaugural Twenty20 international against New Zealand has been less than rigorous.

The tactical considerations amount to a bit of a think by Ponting on the three-hour flight across the Tasman.

"I've haven't actually captained a [Twenty20] game yet, so I'm going to have to put my thinking cap on on the plane and work out what to do and work out what the field restrictions are," Ponting said before boarding the flight to Auckland.

Part of his considerations will be who to bat where, including whether it is worth putting Matthew Hayden straight back to the top of the order.

Hayden is still recovering from pleurisy, and was pronounced fit to tour at the 11th hour.

"I don't know to what extent his health is right at the moment," Ponting said.

"If he is fit, it might be a good opportunity for him to get out there and just let a few cobwebs out ... but we'll have to assess that this afternoon and tomorrow morning."

Ponting has played just one game in cricket's ultra-short format, for Somerset in England, where a flourishing domestic competition is gearing up for its third season.

But so far he likes what he sees.

"Everyone's talking about the one-day game being a bit old and a bit boring. The more Twenty20 cricket you play, your skills will get better and that will rub off in a 50-over game. And you will see bigger scores being made in that.

"If there are bigger scores being made in 50-over cricket then it will be attractive again."

Ponting does not subscribe to the theory that Twenty20 cricket will teach players bad habits.

"You can say the same thing about one- day cricket," he said.

"If you have a look at what one-day cricket's done for Test cricket, I think it's been very positive.

"Who would've ever thought you could score 400 runs in a day of Test cricket, going back even 10 years?"

Ponting said his team was fully focused on the New Zealand tour, even though there was mounting interest in the Ashes series later in the year.

"We know that we have got this very big and vital series to play first."

He is wary of the New Zealanders, who are notoriously difficult to beat on their home tracks.

"Any team at home are harder to beat. They obviously know their conditions very well and will play their conditions well. They've got some strange grounds over there, which - silly as it sounds - can make a bit of difference to the way you play.

"The beauty about our side is I think we can adapt to all conditions really well. I think we showed that ... in the subcontinent over the last couple of years.

"If they happen to be seaming type wickets [in New Zealand] then I think we've got our bases pretty well covered over there as well."

PONTING'S team has the chance to give Australia another first in cricket history in today's Twenty20 match.

Australia won the first ever Test in 1877 and the first ever one-day international in 1971, both against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

A win at Eden Park tonight would make it a treble.

While the high-paced, action-packed Twenty20 concept remains officially experimental, the same could be said of the first internationals in the longer forms of the game.

When Alfred Shaw delivered the first ball in Test cricket to Charles Bannerman on March 15, 1877, the two of them had no idea what they were starting.

Similarly when Geoff Boycott - an unlikely figure - took strike against Graham McKenzie at the same venue on January 5, 1971, few of the 46,005 souls present for the match would have thought that they were witnessing the beginnings of a revolution. Salve helices pariah inure paleoserology evangelistic?
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