Ponting wary of 'dangerous' Pakistan
Australia have less than a week to adjust to their new Test opponents, Pakistan, but Ricky Ponting has been keeping an eye on Mohammad Yousuf's men over the past few months. While Australia have been fighting out a 2-0 win over West Indies, Pakistan were battling hard in New Zealand, where they drew 1-1 but were in serious danger of losing the third Test until rain intervened.
Pakistan have been warming up for the Boxing Day Test with a tour match in Tasmania, where they have shown positive signs with both bat and ball. Their top order was shaky in New Zealand but Ponting said their attack, which features high-quality spin and the impressive 17-year-old left-arm fast man Mohammad Aamer, would be a handful.
"We know that they're a very dangerous side," Ponting said. "They've started to get their fast-bowling attack back on the park again as well. The young left-armer looks like a likely type and Mohammad Asif is back playing again, and Umar Gul is a good bowler.
"[Danish] Kaneria I noticed just got picked back in their side again, who's a world-class legspinner, and [Saeed] Ajmal as well is a world-class offspinner. And we're playing in Melbourne and Sydney, so they'll be a formidable attack, there's no doubt about that."
The Pakistanis will be without Younis Khan, who played for South Australia last season and was the Test team's captain until he resigned in November, claiming he had lost command of the side. The two teams have not met in a Test since 2004-05 and Ponting said Australia would be wary of their potential.
"As a package, if you look at their team they've got a number of exceptional players," Ponting said. "If they stick together as a group and play well together as a team, they can be very dangerous. Our job is to make sure we don't let them gel too much and combine too well. We've just got to make sure that we've learnt our lessons from this series and we get on with playing some good cricket."
With less than a week's turnaround between the third Test against West Indies and the Pakistan series opener, Australia are sweating over the fitness of Ponting, who suffered an elbow tendon injury at the WACA. They will also be keeping a close eye on the fast men Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle, who missed the Perth Test through injuries but could be back in the mix for Boxing Day.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo