New Zealand v Australia, 2nd Test, Hamilton, 5th day March 31, 2010

Ponting looks to the Ashes after undefeated summer


Ricky Ponting is confident Australia are in the best possible shape to regain the Ashes later this year, after a summer in which they won seven out of eight Tests. Series victories against West Indies and Pakistan were followed by a 2-0 triumph in New Zealand and all that is left before the battle for the urn is a two-match series against Pakistan in England.

Ponting said after the final home Test in January that there were no boxes left to tick before the Ashes, although the return to form of Marcus North and the emergence of Ryan Harris over the past two weeks have given him extra reason to believe. The Test squad features no passengers and such is the depth that if everyone is fit, the challenge will be deciding who to leave out.

"We can't be any better placed at the moment, we have two Tests to play in England then it's straight into it," Ponting said. "There will be no excuses from where we are sitting. We've done everything we would have liked for us to have achieved throughout the summer, there's never been a game that has dragged on. When there's been big moments, we've stepped in and got the job done. That's what I expect from these players and they know that.

"We have got great depth at the moment, which every good team needs and every good team wants. You look at Doug Bollinger, he came into the side when a few guys were injured in India and he hasn't looked back and the same for Ryan Harris, he's stepped up to the plate and become a very good international cricketer."

Harris ended his first Test series with nine wickets at an average of 23, while Bollinger has firmly established himself alongside Mitchell Johnson as a frontline fast bowler. It leaves questions over Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus, who began the summer as the first-choice new-ball bowlers before succumbing to injury.

Hilfenhaus was the Man of the Match in his only Test of the summer before being sidelined by a knee problem, while Siddle struggled for most of the season and then suffered a back stress fracture that should keep him out of the series against Pakistan. If both men are fit by Ashes time, the make-up of Australia's attack will be a difficult selection issue.

"It's a tough question. I'm not sure what the right answer is," Ponting said. "A lot of it might be based on conditions when we get to Brisbane as well, knowing what the ball will do up there. Looking at someone like Doug, he'll swing the new ball. Hilfenhaus got five I think up there and Man of the Match against the West Indies in the first game of the summer last year. Being a quality swing bowler like he is, if he's fit then he'll come into calculations.

"It's a good problem to have. Knowing someone like Pete Siddle as well, who can run in and bowl at good pace and unsettle batters and be a good guy to have around the group. To have those guys all fully fit will make the job tough for the selectors. I'm not sure who has got their noses in front at the moment."

What is certain is that Australia's summer couldn't have been much better, the only Test blemish being when West Indies drew in Adelaide. By the time Under the Southern Cross was belted out at 5.20pm on March 31 at Seddon Park, it signalled the end of an excellent season, with the players dispersing either home or to the IPL before their next challenges, which will culminate with the Ashes opener in November.

"There were probably some question-marks over our Test cricket before the summer started, being a little bit inconsistent through the Ashes series," Ponting said. "I'm really proud of what the group has been able to do, especially when you consider all the cricket that we've had to play. Generally when you get a bit tired teams can fade away but I think if anything we've got better and stronger as a group as the year has gone on. I'm really happy with what we've achieved."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lou on April 1, 2010, 18:54 GMT

    JimDavis, you've got it spot on. Haddin's general sloppiness, his poaching into the slips (which keeps them from decent spatial awareness) and his keeping close up does my head in. Our slips cordon is at a pretty low ebb as I NEVER know if North will hold on to even easy catches and Punter is not as sharp as he used to be.

    Hauritz is the best we've got at present, but that really isn't saying a lot. He's a gutsy player, but I never feel he looks threatening. Katich looks far more likely whenever he bowls. Even Clarke does.

    Still visiting offies rarely do much in Aus so Swann may find himself with some very hard work. That's the only plus I can think on the spin front.

    And lets hope Good Mitch is here to stay for a while.

  • richard on April 1, 2010, 12:36 GMT

    It is a shame that Australia didn't blood Smith and drop North in this series. Once again Australia's weakness is not trialling new players at the right time, Pontings and selectors over conservatism again! We need to bring in youth to the batting and the team. Hussey should have been dropped last ashes and Hughes should not have been dropped. Watson should be batting at 4 not Clarke! Its not rocket science fellas.... Don't hang on to people for sentimental reasons.

  • richard on April 1, 2010, 11:04 GMT

    It is a shame that Australia didn't blood Smith and drop North in this series. Once again Australia's weakness is not trialling new players at the right time, Pontings and selectors over conservatism again! We need to bring in youth to the batting and the team. Hussey should have been dropped last ashes and Hughes should not have been dropped. Watson should be batting at 4 not Clarke! Its not rocket science fellas.... Don't hang on to people for sentimental reasons.

  • gabbakid on April 1, 2010, 1:38 GMT

    Australia has had a very good Summer and looks to be favourite for the next Ashes series. While there are a string of fast bowlers competing for places I would like to see the stars of the recent Under 19 World Cup kept in mind especially when the PMs XI is selected. I hope Smith from NSW steps up as a Spin option in the next Sydney test. The only slight cloud is that Ricky Ponting had a poor return this time. He is one of our great batsman but is showing now that form slips as he nears the end of his career. It happened to Greg Chapell, and to Steve Waugh. Ponting has been a great but I hope he retires after he wins back the Ashes.

  • Ujjal on April 1, 2010, 1:26 GMT

    Australia are improving definetly.Though - I think the only teams like SA, India and england can give them enough trouble. On paper the batting line of INdia is no doubt the best with sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Sachin, Lakshman, Dhoni - what a line up and add to it Raina, Yuvraj or Badrinath. anyway Oz shouyld have young guns raedy and firing. They should paly with Watson,Katich, Ponting ( in very poor batting form now lacking confidence against the short ball and not scoring enough runs for the no 3 spot) Clarke,Hussye, Steven Smith, Haddin, Johnson, Hauritz,Bollinger and may be Harris or Hilfenhaus. The bowilng has 4x fast / fats medium bowlers and two spinners in smith and Hauritz. If thos attack develops it will be a better than all attacks in the world. They need an express bowler in place of Harris may be call up and persuade Tait to play Test Cricket again or unearth a fiery Right arm fast man . They also should include young players as reserves like, Hughes,Khwaja and others

  • hayden on March 31, 2010, 22:25 GMT

    here, here jezzricho. i couldnt agree more! johnson's poor ashes series is the only blemish on his test career, the rest has been excellent! i dont know where some of these new south welshmen get off, they wont rest until they have all 11 test players comming from new south wales! they didnt even make the sheild final this year!

  • Russell on March 31, 2010, 22:13 GMT

    Both teams are far below the 2005 standards. Neither team is much like the 2007 standard either. Both are closer to the standard of the 2009 teams. Both teams will do well in their respective home conditions and that's the reason Australia will win the 2010 ashes. You would expect KP & Strauss to do well for England cause they always stand up for the big games. I also expect Swan to fire & think I Broad should be suited to Australian conditions (seam movement). For Australia, Ponting & Hussey are like Strauss & KP - they stand up in the big matches. Bollinger & Johnson are superb in home conditions and will be the difference.

  • Dre on March 31, 2010, 21:09 GMT

    @Sir_Freddie_Flintoff. Its sort of funny though. Alot of commentators/experts/past players and what not kept on saying that the Aus attack will struggle to get 20 wickets. You also say they are not test standard. For a good while I kept on saying yea and agreeing....but lately I asked myself...which test attack right now won't struggle to get 20 wkts? Strangely enough, the Aussie test attack seems more potent than majority of the test attacks going around. Is this testament to the standard of test bowling these days or do we all need to reanalyze? Is it the media just saying stuff for argument sake or are the pitches too flat?

  • Dre on March 31, 2010, 20:58 GMT

    Should be a close-ish Ashes, which for all cricket fans should be a big moment in the test calender (it is a historical series after all). I think it will be about mentality more than anything. Ponting and Aus have shown so far that they are a much more daring and attacking team than Eng. Ponting's declarations cont to be very sporting and with his bowlers in form, you can bet on them to defend 400. They still seem,however to be prone to collapses, which will suit Eng style of play. Eng have shown that they still are into playing the "waiting game." It is a ploy that enables them to win "key" moments in a test BUT I still think they need to be more aggressive in order to move unto the next level, for Aus are rediscovering their habit of digging themselves out of holes. Swann is going to be their X-factor no doubt and alot depends also on the revived Ian Bell, I think more so than KP.

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2010, 19:52 GMT

    ashes... haahhahahha.. how many times will Team Australia regain the Ashes. they might be coonsistent against other teams..Australians will be tested high in Ashes and against india. i accept that there was a team work inside to such victories. but these people are not the invincibles like Steve(waugh)'s and the pontings. Still Team australia need to find a perfect opening slot like Hayden & Langer. they sent the leather to all parts of the ground. katich miight fit to some extent. Watson can do the job of Steve's(as an alrounder) Punter is as good at his position.. the later middle order has to be consistent with the performance, just in case the top 3 will go on a low score. All the best Australia. Get back the No. spot from India. btw, am Indian.

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