Pakistan v Australia, 1st MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Lord's, 4th day July 16, 2010

Ponting delighted as new-look team takes shape


Ricky Ponting might be able to teach Shahid Afridi something about rebuilding. Or Salman Butt. Or whoever captains Pakistan next. For the past couple of years, Ponting has been restructuring his side, if not from the ground up then close to it. And now, he's confident that he has the team required to take Australia forward.

Just as Pakistan are now facing life without Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan - and the soon-to-retire-again Afridi - Australia have had to find replacements for their stars in recent seasons. Since the start of 2008 baggy greens have been handed to 17 new players, including Tim Paine and Steven Smith at Lord's this week, and finally the results are beginning to flow.

They've now won seven consecutive Tests, and 13 in a row against Pakistan, which is a record for any country over any other nation. Ponting is optimistic about the progress his side has made, and with Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris all hoping to be fit in time for the Ashes, he is pleased with the position the Australians have reached.

"It's not about rebuilding now for us," Ponting said after the 150-run win at Lord's. "I feel that we're through that and once we get all our guys back to full fitness we're going to put a really formidable side on the park, which is a really good sign for us. Seven straight now and that's 13 straight against Pakistan, which is another good record to have over them.

"Things are coming together nicely. Without being silly, we've all got one eye on stuff that's happening later in the year and these steps this week have been good ones in the right direction as far as keeping on improving our Test cricket. We've got a few more Tests to play yet, but things are going well for us."

One of the most impressive aspects of their Lord's triumph was the emergence of Paine and Smith, who proved themselves to be of Test standard. Despite being outshone by the six-wicket haul from the part-time spinner Marcus North, the team's designated No. 1 slow bowler Smith showed promising signs by collecting 3 for 51.

The ball that would have excited Australia's selectors the most was a delivery that deceived a well-set Kamran Akmal, a quicker, fuller ball that turned and surprised the batsman to get through his defences. On the final day, Ponting had trusted North ahead of Smith due to the presence of two left-handers at the crease, but he said he could not have asked for any more from the debutant.

"He bowled a lot better today than he did in his first spell yesterday," Ponting said. "He will just continue to grow with confidence and he will put more work on the ball as a result of that and he is just a great kid to have around the side. His enthusiasm is terrific and we did not see the best of him with the bat this game. He is a highly talented batter as well."

Paine delivered an even more professional debut. He was cool-headed in making 47 in the second innings and he was clean and agile behind the stumps, finishing the game with five catches and a stumping. The leg-side effort to remove Butt, who had 92 and was Pakistan's best hope, was particularly encouraging.

North drifted his first delivery past the batsman's pads, Butt advanced and missed the ball, and like a flash Paine had whipped off the bails. It completed what Ponting called an outstanding debut from Paine, who in four days has gone a long towards securing his place as the long-term No. 2 gloveman behind Haddin.

"His work behind the stumps was very sharp," Ponting said. "It was a great stumping today, one sliding down the leg side behind a left-hander is always a hard one to take. That was a big moment in the game, really. Butt was playing beautifully and they're the sort of chances you hope your keeper or any of your fielders take. I thought he had an outstanding debut, as did Smith."

It's that sort of depth that has Ponting looking forward with confidence. The rebuilding is complete, now the finishing touches are being applied.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Chris on July 20, 2010, 8:47 GMT

    It's almost funny watching the anti-Australian bias. I don't think that Ponting is anywhere near the best Captain that Australia has had in the last 20 years but he has done a great job in the rebuilding process, and has always put his team first. I have to giggle at some of the stats that are being discussed, particularly with respects to series wins. Have India won in Australia or South Africa? Do India play 5 test series? Is there any country with more favourable (I won't use the word 'doctored') home pitches than India? The answer to all these questions is both obvious, and the same. Until the answer to these changes, you cannot really be taken series. Get off the anti-Australian bandwagon and look at things a little more objectively. :-)

  • natmastak on July 18, 2010, 13:04 GMT

    Punter still in side bcoz aus is historically reluctant to repllace captains & give them chance to retire with dignity. He is chasing SACHIN ,& everyone will do that being so close,but if he achieves it in such fashion,die hard aus fan will not enjoy it coz aus fans hav always preferred team success above personal records unlike INDIAN fans.

  • natmastak on July 18, 2010, 12:57 GMT

    i will like to add, its no big deal to win when u've gilly ,heydo,mcgra,warne on ur side.real test of captaincy was without them.still he lost ashes with them too & became only captain in long history to lose it twice. + n no. of odi failures(including failure to defend 434).

  • natmastak on July 18, 2010, 12:48 GMT

    @ abhishek : my former reply to u is i think moderated by again this effort. Punter's avg in last 3 yrs is 42 ,which is less than vettori' same periood clarke is scoring at above 55(only tests) Whenever he is pushed back against wall ,he has not done anything magical.he has won many matches bcoz of his fellow players' never say die attitude,not by his captaincy or his magical performance.

  • Peter on July 18, 2010, 12:31 GMT

    @Aussasinator - again, look at the stats. Tests as mentioned 18-8-7 and only 3 out of 10 series losses in that time. If you want to look at bilateral ODI in that timeframe the results are 33-19-4 and only 3 out of 12 series lost so even more impressive. In that run they've won series against India twice, and NZ, WI, Ban, Eng, Pak and Sco (its on the stats so have to include it) once. 2 series losses against SA in that time and one against NZ that Ponting didn't even play in. And don't forget that's excluding the World Cup where they went through undefeated again (that's twice now under Ponting's poor captaincy) and 2 x Champions Trophies where they lost one game out of 10 while winning the two editions held since the Ashes in 06/07.

    The Test series loss to SA in Aus was when we had our worst team in living memory, and it's a bit biased to claim that when Aus beat India in Aus it was a "cheating win" but when Ind beat Aus in Ind it was a "walloping".

    Stick to the facts mate

  • Subba on July 18, 2010, 12:12 GMT

    @PatchesOHoulihan. I'm only trying to introduce realism into the assessment of the performance of the Australian team, a team which is yet to win a serious series in the last 2 years; only trounces second rate teams, and comes up with the rebuilding excuse each time a loss takes place against a good team. When it wins it is agreat team and when it loses, the team is rebuilding. Yes, I'm negative. I dont see anything positive in Australian cricket, with this captain at least. With the Oz team of the last 2 years at his command, Strauss would have turned world beater, as would have Sangakkara. Somewhere someone knows I'm true. But it hurts. Hence the anger & denial.

  • Mark on July 18, 2010, 10:31 GMT

    Typical aussasinator... cheating win over India in Oz land, are you delusional! How did the aussies cheat? The umpires made mistakes, but I'm sure you'll say that the aussies over appealed. I do remember Kumble appealing for a LBW that Brad Hogg cover drove for 2 in the same game, but we don't dare bring that fact up. You always go back to this series how the aussies cheated like most biased anti aus fans. it appears that once you cut down all the 'tall poppies' you are left with only weeds. have a look at yourself aussasinator and your negative attitude. also have a look at how india will go once sachin, dravid and laxman retire and we'll compare the 2 rebuilding processes.

  • Subba on July 18, 2010, 6:34 GMT

    @valey. I'm just looking at the losses, which came despite having a good team and only due to poor captaincy.A series loss to SA in Australia, a cheating win against India in a series in Ozland, a walloping by India 2-0 in a series in India, several ODI series lost both in and out of Australia - all these have happened with real good bowlers and batsmen. Australian bench strength is really good and this team building talk crops up only to justify the big losses so that the whole of Australia and Ponting can continue living in denial.The Australian mindset has slipped to a sorry state, like their batting.

  • Abhishek on July 17, 2010, 15:17 GMT

    @ natmastak_so_called

    Just 4 matches back, Ponting got a double hundred. Do you expect him to score a hundred every match? Being an Indian, I don't expect that much from Sachin Tendulkar also!

    Ponting the leader is as important to the team as Ponting the batsman. He is a much more astute leader than given credit for. As a batsman, a real treat to watch. I don't think he will be hanging up his boots any time soon

  • natmastak on July 17, 2010, 14:37 GMT

    When will punter start performing besides lauding other's efforts.?if u wanna do something for aus,pl hang ur boots & make way for youngsters.

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