Ashes won't distract us - Ponting

Ricky Ponting is certain that the upcoming Ashes series will not distract Australia during their six-week tour of New Zealand. The one-day squad left for the five matches today and Ponting made sure that his teammates knew the tournament was their priority.

"We know that we have got this very big and vital series to play first," Ponting said at Sydney Airport. "New Zealand are a very good side and they are hard to beat in Australia and a lot harder to beat over there."

Ponting said "a lot of media are talking about the Ashes", but interest in the game's oldest Test battle is not limited to holders of pens or microphones. The players have been lining up to discuss the series, which starts in July, since the end of the Pakistan Tests in the first week of January.

Glenn McGrath yesterday pinpointed Andrew Strauss and Michael Vaughan as his focus this winter while overlooking any New Zealand batsmen for next month's three-Test series. "It was intimidating enough when McGrath was naming his target, but this has got to be the ultimate insult - he hasn't even bothered," Adam Parore, the former Kiwi wicketkeeper, told the New Zealand Herald. "It's a new low-point in Trans-Tasman relations."