Surrey bring in Ponting as Smith cover
Surrey have pulled off a second major signing by securing the services of Ricky Ponting for June and July this season.
Ponting, who retired from international cricket after the third Test against South Africa in Perth in December, will fill in as the county's overseas player while Graeme Smith, who signed a three-year deal as Surrey's new captain, is playing in the Champions Trophy for South Africa.
The signing of one of the best batsman to have ever played the game is testament to the pulling power of Surrey, who signed another world great, Smith, to lead their revival. Ponting turned down the chance to play for Somerset last season, despite a gap in the international calendar.
Ponting, 38, could play in four County Championship matches - against Warwickshire, Sussex, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire - and two Yorkshire Bank 40 League matches - against Essex and Lancashire - providing a highlight for the 75th anniversary of the Guildford festival.
He will also play in the group stages of the Friends Life t20 where a mouth-watering line up of Ponting, Smith and Kevin Pietersen will feature in probably the most talented batting order ever assembled in the competition. Surrey will be hoping those three names are a guarantee not only of large attendances at The Oval but a reversal of their terrible performance in the competition last season where they finished bottom of the South group.
Ponting, 38, continues to show his appetite for the game and has returned to play for his state side Tasmania. He scored an unbeaten 200 in his last first-class match against New South Wales.
His career record is among the best of any batsman to have played the game: 13,378 Test runs at 51.85, 13,704 ODI runs at 42.03, 23,313 first-class runs at 55.50 - remarkable figures. Surrey will be hoping he replicates his impact of his previous stint in county cricket with Somerset in 2004. He averaged 99 from both three Championship matches and four one-day games, with three centuries.
Ponting said he was "really excited" about the chance to play for Surrey. "I'd like to think I can contribute a significant amount to the club - on and off the field - and am looking forward to getting stuck in as soon as I arrive. They are a forward thinking and historic club and play at one of the greatest grounds in the world. It hasn't been the friendliest place for me but now it will be my home for two months this summer."
Ponting has never made a century at The Oval and has a high score of 66 in his four Tests there. His best innings was 92 in his final ODI on the ground in 2010.
Smith said Ponting was a great person to have involved with the club. "I was proud that they were looking at him. I have a lot of respect for Ricky. Hopefully both of us will be able to create some new philosophies at the club and hopefully we will have success there."
Surrey Team Director Chris Adams added: "We knew we would lose Graeme to the Champions Trophy in June. That given, we focused on recruiting the best possible replacement and, in Ricky Ponting, we have signed one of the greatest batsmen of the modern era.
"This year, our young batsmen will enjoy a unique opportunity to learn from not just one but two of the greatest International players of the modern age."
Ponting becomes the latest very experienced cricketer to be brought in by Surrey. Jon Lewis, 37, was signed last season and for 2013, along with Smith, Vikram Solanki, the 36-year-old former Worcestershire batsman, and left-arm spinner Gary Keedy, 38, have both been signed to boost an otherwise young, inexperienced squad.