Ponting demands no-ball fix
Ricky Ponting has demanded his bowlers fix the no-ball problem that hampered them in the tour opener so it doesn't cost them in next week's first Ashes Test. The attack registered 38 of the extras in the warm-up against Sussex and while Ponting was sympathetic to their concerns, he does not want a repeat.
"It probably worried the bowling group more than it worried me," Ponting said. "There were a number of reasons why it happened. There was a slope from one end and the fact that guys were striving for that little bit extra because there are spots up for grabs, that had a little bit to do with it.
"That many no-balls in a game is not acceptable and is something we'll be looking to improve in this game. We are probably lucky that we didn't take any wickets off them. Obviously in Test matches you can't afford to do that."
The Australians started the four-day tour match against the England Lions in Worcester on Wednesday ahead of the first Test in Cardiff on July 8. Brett Lee was the main culprit in Hove, delivering 14 no-balls, and the bowlers have been told not to over-step at training, a policy which has been enforced more strictly under the coach Tim Nielsen's watch.
"We do keep a very close eye on them," Ponting said. "It's very rare that we don't have someone standing there as an umpire, letting them know. Trust me, if they're that far over [he puts his hands out to measure about two feet] at training it feels they are right on top of you in the nets. It's hard enough as it is bowling off 20 yards instead of 22."
Australia's training has increased in intensity since the 2005 defeat. "I pretty much demanded that from the guys," Ponting said. "That was one area coming home in 2005 that we felt wasn't as good as it could have been, but when we were away and in the middle of it all everything felt like it was good."
The side's fielding set-up has also been altered on this trip, with Michael Clarke due to replace the retired Matthew Hayden at first slip. Marcus North has spent time there during his limited appearances, but Nielsen has decided Clarke is the long-term option in the crucial position.
"Michael has caught a lot at third slip in the past, he's a natural catcher at slip and we think he's the best man for the job there," Nielsen told Cricket Australia TV. Ponting is unmoved in the reshuffle while Phillip Hughes will stand at third and Michael Hussey remains in the gully.
The move means Clarke's strong left arm throwing and outstanding ground fielding will be missing from the offside. "We certainly feel as though we're losing some of our speed, agility and throwing power in the ring at cover," Nielsen said. "But looking at how most dismissals take place, especially early on in the innings with the new ball, there were so many catches behind the wicket that the decision was made that we need our best catchers there."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo