Ponting looks for inspiration

2010-12-02 08:38
Ricky Ponting (AFP)

Adelaide - Skipper Ricky Ponting cast his mind back four years rather than four days as he searched for something to inspire his demoralised Australian line-up ahead of the second Ashes cricket Test against England.

A draw in the series-opener in Brisbane has already cost Mitchell Johnson his spot in the bowling attack, and stripped Australia of its status as favorite to regain the old urn it lost in England last year.

Australia had a potentially match-winning 221-run lead in Brisbane after dismissing England for 260 - including a rare hat-trick from Peter Siddle - and scoring 481 in reply, but failed to capitalise against resilient batting in the second innings as Alastair Cook posted an unbeaten double century. Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott also scored hundreds.

The criticism was heavy, much of it directed at Johnson for conceded 170 runs and failing to pick up a wicket at the Gabba, where he also dropped a catch and failed to score a run.

Rather than focus entirely on that, Ponting on Thursday recalled the memorable Ashes contest in Adelaide in 2006 when, after England declared its first innings at 551-6, Shane Warne inspired a collapse to 129 all out in the second innings to set up an unlikely victory that kept Australia on course for its eventual 5-0 series whitewash.

"The Test win here was probably the best Test win I've been involved with," Ponting said. "It was an amazing game of cricket, from both teams really, but we grabbed the initiative really late in the game, and we were good enough to get over the line.

"There are some fond memories for a few of the guys who played in that game, a fair bit of success, Michael Clarke got a hundred, Mike Hussey got 90 ... hopefully some of those good memories will be good signs this week."

The circumstances will be different this week. Australia went to Adelaide after a convincing opening win in Brisbane.

In fact, this is only the second time Australia has gone into the second Test without a lead since England's last series win here in 1986-87.

The other occasion in 1998-99 was due to thunderstorms saving England from defeat in Brisbane.

Ponting said Australia would wait until the morning to decide which of the remaining bowlers would replace Johnson.

Doug Bollinger is the most likely candidate, but Ponting said nothing should be read into the fact that Ryan Harris, who only returned this month after knee surgery, did not bowl in the nets on Thursday.

"We're not worried about Ryan's knee at all," Ponting said. "If we had any worries about his knee he wouldn't be with us. We just want to keep it up our sleeves for tomorrow morning and see what we think is the best eleven."

It has been suggested that Harris may come in for Ben Hilfenhaus and Ponting discussed the merits of each bowler ahead of the Australia selectors' decision.

"Hilfy's strengths are his ability to swing the new ball," Ponting said. "He bowls in good areas. He ties batters down as we saw at different times in the Brisbane game.

"Ryan's strengths are ... he knows the wicket here very well. He's slightly quicker in the air and hits the wicket a bit harder than Ben does and is a better reverse swing bowler for later in the game, which comes into consideration when you think about games in Adelaide."

Ponting rejected suggestions that making two changes would be a sign of weakness insisting picking the players most likely to win the game for Australia is the only consideration.

"The bottom line is we've got to find 20 wickets in the game and we've got to pick bowlers who we think are best equipped ... to get the job done this week," Ponting said. "We wouldn't make changes if we didn't think it would make the attack better for this game.

"We have to pick the best team for every condition that we are confronted with in the summer. We didn't win a Test last week, and hopefully the team we pick this week will be good enough to win."

England have no selection worries and it would be a major surprise if there are any changes to the eleven who played in the first test.

Trott, who has posted centuries in his two Tests against Australia, insists there are no demons from the loss here in 2006.

"I don't think the guys will be worried about what happened four years ago," Trott said. "It's in the past and we're looking to come to Adelaide and win."

Spin bowlers come into the game under some pressure. Xavier Doherty needs to show he deserves his spot in the Australian squad ahead of Nathan Hauritz, and Graeme Swann - rated the No. 2 bowler in test rankings - to prove that he can be England's talisman in this series after taking just 16 wickets at an average exceeding 45 in six tests against the Australians.

However, just as the Gabba wicket did not live up to its typical bouncy conditions, there is doubt as to whether the Adelaide Oval strip, traditionally a spinners' wicket, will play to type.

Read more on:    ashes  |  ricky ponting  |  mitchell johnson

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