Ponting's men can win 30 Tests on the trot: Waugh

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Sydney, Jan 1 (UNI) Egging his predecessor to break his own record of 16 consecutive Test wins, former skipper Steve Waugh believes Ponting's men has the wherewithal to win as many as 30 Tests on a row if they maintain their blistering form.

''There is no reason why they can't. The way they are playing at the moment, they are dominating. They are winning matches by big margins, but cricket is a funny game,'' Waugh said.

But the 42-year-old had a word of caution for the hosts. ''We thought we were going to win 17 in a row in Kolkata (in 2001) and it didn't happen. When you least expect it, it (cricket) comes back and bites you,'' he said.

Ponting's men will equal the world record of 16 consecutive Test wins set under Waugh's captaincy in 2000-01 if they knock over a shellshocked Team India in the second Test at the SCG, starting tomorrow.

While Waugh's claim sounds unlikely, a quick glimpse of Australia's schedule this year suggests it is not impossible.

The Aussies will start as the favourites against India in Sydney.

They will have another two Test at Perth and Adelaide before this series is finished.

They are then slated to tour Pakistan, West Indies and India this year, while there is also a mid-year series against minnows Bangladesh.

The 1948 Australian team led by Sir Donald Bradman was dubbed ''the Invincibles'' because it didn't lose a single match throughout its tour of England.

This title could soon be given to Ponting's side if its stunning form continues.

Waugh said he was delighted this team was in a position to match the record he tasted late in his career.

''It's a fantastic achievement. I am more than happy to see them get 16, then go on and get 20, 25, 30, 32 (wins),'' he was quoted as saying by the 'Herald Sun'.

''Records are there to be broken. I am happy to have left the side in a good state. Ricky has done a great job and I am more than happy if they go past it.'' Waugh also praised Brett Lee, saying the spearhead could be remembered as one of Australia's greatest bowlers by the time he retires.

Lee has been in scintillating form this summer, taking 22 wickets in three Tests.

He needs only six more to overtake Jason Gillespie (259) and move to fifth position on Australia's all-time list, behind Shane Warne (708), Glenn McGrath (563), Dennis Lillee (355) and Craig McDermott (291).

The 31-year-old Lee has a better strike rate (51.5) than any on that list.

Asked if Lee could eventually be bracketed with the greats of the game, Waugh said, ''You have to be consistent. Those guys did it over a decade.

''Brett came on with a great flurry over the first 10, 15 Tests.

''He struggled, had a few injuries, working his way back. But if he can back up this season over the next four or five years, then there is no doubt he can be up there.

''He really looks the complete bowler now. He has control; he knows when to up the ante; he can sense weakness in batsmen; and he is not bowling any four-balls.'' UNI XC TB AB KP1218

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