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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

Ponting's Ashes kryptonite

It might seem a wild suggestion, but just like Jardine used Larwood against Bradman, Strauss could consider bringing back Flintoff for a couple of Ashes Tests

Ian Chappell

July 4, 2010

Comments: 44 | Text size: A | A

Andrew Flintoff has a word with Ricky Ponting, England v Australia, 2nd Test, Lord's, 4th day, July 19, 2009
I'm watching you © Getty Images
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Playing in a period that has often been dominated by batsmen, Ricky Ponting is comfortably among the three best willow-wielders of his time.

In the early part of his career, when good fast bowlers were still reasonably prolific, he was overshadowed by the glittering deeds of Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. However, Ponting was able to reel in this mighty pair by becoming such a dominant No. 3 batsman that he was able to dictate terms to almost any attack. Then when Lara retired and Tendulkar's powers waned, Ponting moved to the head of the batting class, and although there are signs age is now catching up with him and the Indian maestro has gathered a second wind, Ponting is still the most influential batsman in the Australian side.

Never has this been more evident than during the five-game ODI series against England. Ponting is no Sir Donald Bradman, but then again nobody else has got within a decent career average of the player who virtually averaged a hundred in Tests.

And neither is Andrew Strauss another Douglas Jardine; he bats left-handed, and rather than baiting Australians, he married one.

However, there are parallels with what's happening between this pair and the machinations of the infamous Bodyline series. With his desire to beat Australia aroused, Jardine decided that if you decreased Bradman's influence on the contest, it dramatically increased England's chances of winning. He virtually halved Bradman's average in 1932-33, with the help of Harold Larwood's well-directed missiles, and hey presto, Ashes reclaimed.

Strauss is a shrewd captain and he's figured out that if you keep Ponting relatively quiet, the rest of the Australian batting line-up is easier to subdue. In the first three ODIs, the England bowlers got the better of Ponting and poof, just like magic, a series victory was claimed.

However, in game four Ponting finally broke the shackles and Australia returned to the winner's circle via their favoured route: by posting a big total and then pouncing as a demanding chase proves too much for a side trying to combat a solid bowling attack backed by athletic fielding.

 
 
England currently have a versatile attack but the one thing they lack is a man with the speed, accuracy and aura to shake up good batsmen on bouncy Australian pitches. The one England bowler with those credentials is Flintoff
 

It's a formula that has often worked for Australia but it's most successful when Ponting has a long stay at the crease to oversee proceedings. There's no doubt Michael Clarke is a class player but he can't dictate terms like Ponting. And Shane Watson can hammer the faster bowlers but too often his dominance is snuffed out shortly after he gets to 50. Strauss will be aware that dealing with Ponting is like a night at the casino: sometimes you're lucky and others you're not.

However, the evidence is irrefutable. In the two Tests England won to claim the 2009 Ashes series, England kept Ponting quiet, particularly in the first innings, and Australia were never able to dominate when batting. If Strauss wants to reach the dizzy heights, he could learn another lesson from Jardine.

Jardine was quick to realise that you need good fast bowling to win in Australia. Jardine not only provided Larwood with a blueprint for unsettling Bradman, he also made sure he had plenty of fast bowling back-up. England currently have a versatile attack but the one thing they lack is a man with the speed, accuracy and aura to shake up good batsmen on bouncy Australian pitches.

The one England bowler with those credentials is Andrew Flintoff. Apparently Flintoff is amenable to returning for one last Ashes series. Just like Jardine courted Larwood with plans to bounce Bradman before the 1932-33 series, Strauss would be wise to advise Flintoff that if he's fit, he'd like him in the touring party, even if it's just for two or three specific Tests.

England already has one small piece of kryptonite to weaken Ponting: throughout his career he's had problems with good offspinners and Graeme Swann is currently the best in the game. However, Swann and every other England bowler will present a stronger challenge to Ponting's authority if a fit Flintoff is lurking in the shadows. Some might say it's a panic move, others would complain on the score of disrupting team unity. Then there are those who might deem the move a practical one in an attempt to win a series in Australia, and never has there been a more pragmatic cricket captain than Douglas Jardine.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

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Posted by sachin1bradman2 on (July 7, 2010, 11:22 GMT)

Chappell is a class act, as far as strategizing is concerned. Though I think Flintoff had a graceful (if not ideal ) departure in the last Ashes, so it's probably not such a splendid idea to bring him back. Look forward England, Swann is an exceptional talent as a spinner, it shouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility to find a sharp paceman who can take on the Aussies. Flintoff, Simon Jones & Co could take it upon themselves to pass on their seeds of wisdom (reverse swing et al) to the next breed of English fastmen. Also, countries like England and India would do well to emulate the rotational policies of CA, which have a built in mechanism to eliminate player selfishness, overconfidence, complacency etc

Posted by Puppster23 on (July 7, 2010, 6:44 GMT)

I'm an Oz fan, but keeping my bias aside, I still think England have very less a chance to beat Aus down under. The English bowling or batting won't have a great time on hard Aussie tracks, and if its Swann that England are backing upon, then good luck to them, coz we all know how receptive Aussie tracks are to spin bowling.....

Posted by insightfulcricketer on (July 5, 2010, 15:45 GMT)

Stauss need not bother. Swann will be the game changer in the next Ashes. With his big hearted tossed up off spin on Australian wickets he will be quite a handful esp on 3rd day wicket on-wards. If he develops a top-spinning straigher one he will be able to run through most Aussie batsman other than Clarke maybe. Main thing Strauss has to ensure when the team reaches Oz land is that Swann gets most practise in the side games so he know what length to drop his off spin in Aussie wickets and the batsman need to fire big time. The only way to beat Australians is to consistently score over 400+ (easier said than done). Aussies are born fighters more so in their backyard - two very good team makes will make the Ashes series a compelling viewing even for neutrals - especially the tests.

Posted by Rahul_78 on (July 5, 2010, 10:25 GMT)

This is the best article by miles regarding the forthcoming ashes tour. Never before has any australian team ever relied on 1 player and ian has got it 100% right. With a realistic chance of loosing ashes in autralia ricky will be doubly dengorous. Age might be catching up with him but you can always relay on class players to rise to the occasion. I am sure strauss is not going to loose sleep over katcih, clarke and watson. Punter is the one who will have to carry aussie batting. Coming to his latest weakness of geting out while pulling the ball no one is more efficient and expereinced in england then fit flintoff. With swann lurking in his shadows ponting will surely have tough time. Ian chappel has given a key to englishmen of ashes success. A ordinary series for punter will tip the odds in english favor and vice versa. Aussiie bowling attack if all options are avaialable including tait will be definately reliable and will deliver the goods if 400+ runs are scored.

Posted by axdvg on (July 5, 2010, 9:37 GMT)

Might as well bring back Beefy, Warne, McGrath yada yada yada... get over it Freddi is not playing test cricket because he can't last 5 days. Otherwise why in the right mind will he not have played?

Posted by vineetphysics2006 on (July 5, 2010, 5:26 GMT)

my advice to Ian is just keep watching at the mirror.........it will definitely say something.....no need for flintoff.......just advice for swann is to watch video of harbhajan bowling to ponting and if possible take his help to undo ponting ........it will be of immense help.......sorry ponting no tendulkar catch up task now

Posted by Foxtrot210789 on (July 5, 2010, 5:12 GMT)

Isn't it stating the obvious that when big name players in their respective teams.. whether it be Flintoff, Ponting, Kobe Bryant in the NBA or a local clubs captain best/player performs well it lifts a team. Playing multiple sports through my life, and playing with some guys who were amazing (for the level) it does lift a team when they lift.. but at the same time, when they slump, they can bring them down.. a test of a good team is for when the best players slump, others step up..

Posted by KAPIL_DEAR_IN on (July 5, 2010, 5:04 GMT)

I THINK CHAPPELL IS A WONDERFUL READER OF MINDS AND HIS INSTINCTS AS A CAPTAIN HAVE LEAD HIM TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE.THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HE WOULD HAVE HAVE TRIED HAD HE BEEN IN PLACE OF ANDREW STRAUSS.I THINK CRICKET AT THIS DESPERATE TIMES NEDDS CHARACTERS LIKE IAN CHAPPLELL WHO CAN INSPIRE COMPETITION AMONG PLAYERS TO PLAY ATTACKING CRICKET.ESPECIALLY CAPTAINS THESE DAYS GO ON THE BACKFOOT AS SOON AS A PLAYER REACHES 25 RUNS.I THINK IN LAST 5 YEARS TEAMS HAVE LOST TO AUSTRALIA BACAUSE OF BAD CAPTAINCY MORE THAN BECAUSE OF LACK OF SKILLS TO MATCH THERE OPPONENT.AUSTRALIA ARE AT ITS MOST VUNERABLE AT THE MOMENT.SO IS THERE CAPTAIN AS A BATSMEN.SO WHY NOT ATTACK HIM WITH A GENUINE FAST BOWLER AND SEE WHAT STUFF HE IS MADE OF.ONE THING IS GUARNTEED - EXCITING CRICKET.WHICH IS ALL WHAT WE WANT.

Posted by Something_Witty on (July 4, 2010, 23:33 GMT)

C'mon Chappeli. Stop building the pommies up, you're way too polite about them. It's England v Australia in AUSTRALIA. They're not going to lose 5-0, but England will have to be incredibly lucky to actually win a game.

Posted by Bilal_Choudry on (July 4, 2010, 23:26 GMT)

last summer both WI and Pakistan played the short bowling tactic and more often than not they succeeded against Ponting ... having said that I think its time they try someone new like Finn

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Ian ChappellClose
Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.

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