Unchanged Australia take confidence from Perth
Ricky Ponting has told his team to maintain its newly-found high standards after Australia's breakthrough victory ended a five-Test winless streak and squared the Ashes series. The crushing 267-run success gave the hosts some much-needed momentum as the sides heads to Melbourne for a Boxing Day Test that will now be a blockbuster.
"We got a nice old hiding in Adelaide last week and so to bounce back as drastically and dramatically as we have done, it says a lot about us and where we're at," Ponting said after missing the final morning with a broken little finger. The result caused a dramatic shift as the campaign swung in a similar way to the see-sawing 2009 Ashes in England.
"There was a lot of emotion in this win, we hadn't had much to celebrate up to now," Ponting said. "We have now set a new set of standards this week, this is the best way for us to play our cricket, and we have to maintain those standards. We have had a better team performance here than we have for a long time and it is important we don't take this for granted, but make sure this win is significant."
Australia have picked an unchanged 12 for Melbourne and have the option of adding a standby player if Ponting's injury continues to be a problem. Phillip Hughes and Steven Smith held their spots after unconvincing contributions and Michael Beer retains his place as Australia seek stability.
Beer, the left-arm spinner, was released to play for Western Australia in their Sheffield Shield loss to Tasmania and went wicket-less in 11 overs. Australia had huge success with a four-pronged pace attack at the WACA but will need more variety on the drop-in surface in Melbourne, where Beer is in line to debut in front of a crowd that could top 90,000.
"He's grown up in Melbourne his whole life, so he'll know what the conditions are going to be pretty much down there," Ponting said of Beer. "Whether he plays or not will depend on what the wicket looks like a couple of days before the game."
After the innings thrashing in Adelaide, Ponting thought "here we go again" when Australia slumped to 5 for 69 on the first day, but they recovered through the batting of Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson. Johnson then surged Australia ahead in England's first innings before he and Ryan Harris finished off the match.
The Australians were the target of fierce criticism after their performances in the first two Ashes Tests and this was the first time they have sung the team song since they beat Pakistan at Lord's in July. "It has been warranted," Ponting said of the public and media reaction over the past month. "Yes, it has been pretty harsh, but you expect that when you're not performing the way people want you to perform. That is the way the team has taken it.
"We've not been that worried about it, we've just tried to be better to give you guys something good to say about us and we've done that this week. The feeling around our group has been great and nothing has changed. I've just waited for it to click together like it has done this week and that is what makes me so proud of the guys."
The last Ashes series had a handful of key turning points and this campaign has a familiar feel as two solid sides trade blows without any knock-outs. England won the second game at Lord's after being out-played in the drawn opener, while Australia drew level in the fourth Test before losing the match and the urn at The Oval.
Ponting said his side had gained momentum and confidence after failing to grab it in Brisbane and Adelaide. "We've got the tide going back in our direction now and, more importantly, we've got some of our key players going well," he said. "Like Mitchell, who is on top of the world and has as much confidence as he's ever had in his career.
"Mike Hussey is in the same boat, as is [Shane Watson], Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus and Brad Haddin, so we've got a number of guys playing somewhere near their best and that is why I'm confident in this group. It is amazing what impact confidence and that winning feeling amongst the group can have. It can make the team achieve some special things."
Australia squad Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Michael Beer, Ben Hilfenhaus.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo