Boxing for survival, Ricky Ponting raring to go
With the teams tied 1-1 in the Ashes, the atmosphere at the Melbourne Cricket Ground is bound to be electric; Ponting and Anderson fit to play. Captains Speak | Number Gamecricket Updated: Dec 26, 2010 01:57 IST
Australia captain Ricky Ponting and England paceman James Anderson passed fitness tests Saturday and are set to take their place in the fourth Ashes test traditionally called the Boxing Day Test, raising the prospect of both teams going in with unchanged teams.
Ponting had been in doubt after suffering a broken little finger in the third test, but batted in the nets and said "the finger's good. I'm pretty surprised at how I've been able to train." While the Australia skipper looks ready to start Sunday, he will vacate his regular fielding spot of second slip due to the finger injury, with mid-off his likely position to help his bowlers.
"The boys have been joking about that this morning actually, that I could be fine leg to fine leg through the game," Ponting said of his new fielding position. "I won't be at second slip but I'll find somewhere where I can keep myself in the game."
Anderson had also been doubtful with a side strain but bowled at close to full pace in the Melbourne Cricket Ground nets over the past two
days including a light England session Saturday as both teams mixed preparation for the vital test with some Christmas celebrations. England captain Andrew Strauss said Anderson was "100 percent fit and available for selection."
Strauss said he was "very confident" his team could recover from last week's 267-run defeat in Perth.
"We had a few days off which was much needed. It's been quite a long tour and we came here and there's been a lot of buzz and energy about the team over the past couple of days," he said.
While Ponting has had difficulty at the crease in this series averaging under 20, he has averaged 62.42 in 13 tests at the MCG.
Aussies yet to name squad
Australia has not named its side, although selectors may stick with the four-man pace attack which was successful in Perth, which would mean uncapped spinner Michael Beer would be 12th man and be released to state duties for Western Australia.
Uncapped batsman Usman Khawaja is on standby for Ponting but it's unlikely the left-hander will be required.
"We haven't finalized the 11 yet." Ponting said. "We'll wait until the morning to see one, what the weather's like, and two, if the wicket changes at all."
England too could go in unchanged, although pacemen Tim Bresnan or Ajmal Shahzad could be brought in if Steve Finn is rested.
England No. 3 batsman Jonathan Trott batsman said the nature of the series - a draw in Brisbane, innings win by England in Adelaide and a big win by Australia in Perth, has made for an exciting series.
"Going 1-0 up and being really, really keen to perform, things didn't go our way (in Perth)," Trott said.
"It was a good example of how test cricket can turn around pretty quickly." Strauss said the sense of occasion Sunday won't be lost on his side.
won't be intimidated by mcg crowd: strauss
England will not be intimidated by a Melbourne Cricket Ground packed with a hostile Australian crowd for the fourth Ashes test, captain Andrew Strauss said on Saturday.
The test gets underway on Sunday and officials have talked up the possibility of a record attendance for a cricket ground at the cauldron-like MCG on the first day.
Ponting, took a psychological swipe at England's youthful side, saying he thought they could find the atmosphere intimidating with the five-test series delicately poised at 1-1.
"I'm sure he does," Strauss said of Ponting following England's final training session at the MCG.
"I don't think we will, no. One of the things that's important is that you're ready for it and you're not surprised by it. "It's going to be quite a big spectacle and it's out of the ordinary. We don't usually play in front of that number of people."