Ponting philosophical over future
Ricky Ponting might have played his last Test in England, but he still hasn't ruled out one final attempt to win the Ashes on enemy soil. Ponting flew out of London last September freshly hurt by the loss of the urn and keen to return in 2013, but a year later he has become more philosophical about his chances of being part of the next Ashes battle in England.
The country has been troublesome for Ponting. It has reduced him to mortal status as a batsman - he averages 41.79 in 20 Tests in England - and Australia have won only three of their 12 Tests in the British Isles under Ponting's captaincy. Pakistan's victory at Headingley levelled the series 1-1, so he has still not won a Test series in England as leader.
By the time Australia return for an Ashes tour Ponting will be 38, and he knows that his chances of still being in the Test side depend not only on his desire but also on whether he retains his reflexes and ability. On that front, the signs for Ponting are slightly worrying. In the past 12 months he has averaged 39.81 in Tests and the powerful pulls and hooks that have been his trademark have at times brought his downfall.
His 209 in Hobart in January was made possible only because Mohammad Aamer dropped a sitter at fine leg when Ponting had not yet scored. At Headingley this week he made 66, but he could easily have been sent on his way first ball when he padded up to an Aamer delivery that would have clipped the top of off stump.
"I honestly don't know [if I'll play in England again]," Ponting said after the Leeds loss. "It's all going to be down to how well I play. I love playing for Australia. I cherish every moment that I have to captain the side and represent my country. If I get back here in a couple of years time then so be it, but if I'm not good enough then there's nothing I can do about that."
If there was a hint of self-doubt in that statement, it would be a rarity for Ponting. He is not keen to concede vulnerability by giving up the pull shot, or by shifting himself down the order. Even when Australia were trying to claw their way back into the game at Headingley, Ponting tried to be attacking against an excellent group of swing bowlers.
"I don't think I played any more defensively than normal," he said. "Over the years I've always had that fairly aggressive intent to go out there and put it back on the bowlers. I still felt I had that in the second innings but they bowled pretty well."
Combating the moving ball will be even more difficult at 38. For now, Ponting will focus on the Ashes at home and a World Cup defence on the subcontinent early next year. Whether Australia's captain will push on beyond that is anyone's guess.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo