Ponting confident for 2006

Australian captain Ricky Ponting has every reason to feel pleased with himself and his team before the first Test of 2006, the third and final match of the series against South Africa.

The 31-year-old, who has scored 26 centuries since making his Test debut 10 years ago, will become only the ninth Australian to reach the 100-Test milestone when he leads the team onto the Sydney Cricket Ground today.

But as he prepared for his 100th Test - and first as the No.1 rated batsman in the world - with a 1-0 series lead, Ponting was still looking for ways to improve.

The Australian captain explained that he was trying not to let cricket get to him too much, while from a team perspective, he pinpointed the side's batting as needing some extra steel.
"I probably took a lot of things home with me through that Ashes series, probably more so than usual," Ponting admitted, reflecting on 2005.

"I'd like to think that people wouldn't be able to know with me, if I made 200 or five in a day's play."

"Hopefully I can stay fairly neutral no matter how the team is going or how I'm going personally," he added.

True to his word, Ponting played down the fact that he was Test cricket's leading scorer in 2005, with a massive 1,544 runs.

"I guess it's been a decent year. I don't get too carried away with it," he said.

"Hopefully next year I can average about the same and the team can keep improving."

As far as ways for the team to improve, Ponting wants to see fewer batting collapses. Since losing 7-44 in the final Ashes Test, the Australians have lost 9-47 against the World XI at the SCG, 6-66 in the third Test against the West Indies in Adelaide and 6-41 in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

"If you look back through our performances over the last half a dozen or so Test matches, we've had a lot of those scenarios pop up where we've been 1-150, 1-180, then all of a sudden we were 7-250," Ponting said.

"They are areas that we can improve on. We'd like to think that can happen in this game."

"We are looking at those areas, as we always do, to look for little ways that we can improve ourselves. That will be one area from the last Test," Ponting added.

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