Melbourne - Australia captain Ricky Ponting tested out his broken finger during fielding and throwing drills on Thursday and said he was hopeful of playing the fourth Ashes Test against England 'pain-free'.
Ponting broke his little finger during a catch attempt in the slips in the third Test in Perth and did not take the field on the fourth and final day as Australia completed a 267-run victory to level the five-Test series 1-1.
The 36-year-old captain appeared to have little difficulty during the fielding session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but elected not to take the crease in the nets.
Ponting has endured a poor series with the bat, with just 83 runs at an average of 16.60, 51 of those as Australia batted out the first Test for a draw in Brisbane.
"The finger is good actually. I joined in and did a fair bit of fielding at training this morning, I didn't have a bat on Thursday but I'll jump into the nets on Friday," Ponting said at a public appearance in Melbourne.
"So I think, as I said after the Perth game, I'm a really good chance of playing in this test match and hopefully I'll be able to play pain-free, which will be nice."
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who has been floated as a possible successor to Ponting amid a form slump to vice captain and heir apparent Michael Clarke, said Ponting's participation at the Melbourne Test starting on Sunday was "very important".
"Obviously he's our leader and we get a lot of inspiration from him and he's been a great leader for Australia with this group of players," Haddin told reporters.
"You just have to see the turnaround we had from Adelaide to Perth to see the effect he has on the cricket team."
Uncapped 24-year-old Usman Khawaja, a Pakistan-born top-order batsman, has been named as stand-by for the Boxing Day Test if Ponting fails to prove his fitness.
Officials are forecasting a bumper crowd for the Test and said the first day could attract a record attendance of more than 90 000 people.