Auckland - Australia captain Michael Clarke has disputed claims he made a tactical blunder in his use of bowlers during Saturday's loss to New Zealand at the World Cup.
Australia was fighting its way back into the match, defending its meager total of 151, and Mitchell Starc had taken three wickets in five balls when Clarke removed him from the attack and brought in Mitchell Johnson.
New Zealand was on the back foot at the time of the change but Corey Anderson hit Johnson's first three balls for two fours and a six to alleviate the pressure.
Starc returned and took another three wickets in his second spell, but New Zealand won the match by a wicket, prompting questions as to whether Australia would have won had Starc bowled through.
"It's pretty tough to bowl a 10-over spell," Clarke said. "So it was more to give Mitch (Starc) two overs off.
"He was bowling beautifully, and I knew we could find another way to get a breakthrough. I thought Mitch would have a huge opportunity to try to go through the tail as he just about did. Good decision?"
Australia's loss, which left it with one win, one loss and one match rained out at the mid-point of its pool matches, didn't deliver anything more than a glancing blow to its ambitions of winning the world tournament. It will likely still progress to the quarterfinals and might meet New Zealand again in the semis, if not the final.
But Clarke, who returned to lead the Australian team after a nine-week layoff following hamstring surgery, described the batting performance as "extremely poor", not taking much succor from a spirited performance by the bowlers to almost snatch a remarkable victory.
"They swung the ball nicely and bowled good areas but our shot selection was very poor, and our defense more than anything else was an area that was a lot poorer than we would have liked," Clarke said.
"Sometimes you can get caught up...on the power side of your game. I don't think we've had too many sessions where we've worked on...defending a brand-new ball or a swinging ball, so that is an area that we can certainly focus on moving forward."
Clarke had faith that the team can rapidly improve, but added that it would need to.
"Against the best opposition we have to play better than that," Clarke said.
"I still think that it's a really strong squad, I'm still confident we can come out and play our best cricket and turn this around quickly."