Australia captain Ricky Ponting is hopeful his team can recover its form ahead of the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston after its comprehensive 115-run defeat to England on Monday. Australia holds the Ashes after its 5-0 sweep of England in the 2006-07 series but if they are to retain the urn Ponting knows his team needs a better performance than the losing effort displayed at Lord's.
In 2005, England came from 1-0 down to win the series 2-1. Australia plays England in the third of five Tests at Edgbaston in Birmingham on July 30. First, the touring side has a three-day game against Northamptonshire to fine-tune its plans. "We need to regroup as a team and we have to bounce back quickly and hit the ground running at Edgbaston," Ponting said. "I'm proud of the way we fought the game out but since lunch on day one we have been chasing our tails. We were outplayed from the first ball." Ponting's greaTest problem is the form of his leading bowler Mitchell Johnson, who returned figures of 3-132 from 21.4 overs in the first innings _ including 24 boundaries _ and 0-68 in the second innings.
The left-arm paceman claimed 33 wickets in six Tests against South Africa before the England tour but his lack of control allowed England's openers to put on 196 for the first wicket on Thursday. "We will go to Northampton looking to rectify a few things that have been glaringly obvious," Ponting said. "We've got some issues to work through."
He added that Johnson, too, will work to overcome his problems. "It was only a couple of games ago that he was bowling as well as anyone going around. There was a lot of talk about Mitchell arriving in London and everyone wanting to see him bowl and see him bat. "That was only a couple of weeks ago. It's not as if he's lost everything he's ever had. He'll work hard over the next ten days to give himself the best chance to keep improving." Meanwhile, England captain Andrew Strauss said he was proud to be one of the 11 who recorded England's first Test win over Australia at Lord's for 75 years.
Strauss will consequently approach Edgbaston in better spirits though he too has some worries.
Chief among these is the fitness of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff. While Flintoff is determined to play through the pain barrier before retiring next month, Pietersen may be more of a concern.
"We've got a week off so the guys can rest their bodies and the medical staff will be reviewing things in a few days' time," Strauss said. "It's hard to know exactly where we're going to be come the end of the week. We're just hopeful we'll have a fit squad to pick from."
Pietersen limped through his innings on Saturday because of an Achilles tendon injury.
"His (Pietersen's) injury is obviously hurting him, so the medical staff will have to see how he reacts to a few days' rest and recuperation. It will be a case of putting his feet up in front of the TV more than anything.
"We'll have to play it by ear but the most important thing is that the 11 players we choose for the Edgbaston Test have to be certain of being able to get through the game."