Ashes pressure on England, says Ponting

The Aussie captain believes the Ashes pressure is on England because of fitness doubts over key players.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2006 17:33 IST

Australian captain Ricky Ponting believes the Ashes pressure is fully on England because of fitness doubts over key players and its modest recent Test record.

Ponting, fresh from leading the Australians to their first-ever Champions Trophy success with an eight-wicket victory over the West Indies in Sunday's final in Mumbai, claims Australia has form and fitness on its side.

There have been concerns over the readiness of England's new skipper Andrew Flintoff, fast bowler Steve Harmison, opener Marcus Trescothick and spinner Ashley Giles, who have all been sidelined for extended periods this year with injuries.

"I think it's probably them, it's definitely England," Ponting told Australian media in India, in comments reported Monday, when asked which of the teams was under the most pressure heading into the anticipated Ashes series.

"There's more questions being asked of them and their team and their fitness than there is of us.

"Our record this year has been very good, theirs has not been so good.

"They've won five of their 13 Tests (since the 2005 Ashes) and we've won 11 of our 12."

England lost a three-match series in Pakistan 2-0, drew 1-1 from four Tests in India, was held 1-1 at home by Sri Lanka before lifting to beat Pakistan 3-0, including one win on forfeit.

"Everyone back in Australia is saying we're going to start favourites, and if that's the case then it probably does take a bit of the pressure off and puts it on to them."

While the fitness of several senior England players remains a talking point, the Australians are mindful of a group of promising youngsters on their first Ashes tour of Australia.

Middle-order batsman Ian Bell, left-arm spinner Monty Panesar and emerging number three batsman Alastair Cook were among the four finalists in the International Cricket Council's emerging player of the year category at Friday's awards ceremony in Mumbai.

Bell, who endured a miserable 2005 Ashes series when his technique was exposed by Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, won the honour and Ponting conceded the 24-year-old batsman has progressed.

"His record would speak for itself," Ponting said of the Warwickshire batsman, who has averaged more than 50 and scored three Test centuries so far in 2006.

"He does look like a good player, he's technically pretty sound and it's going to be how he reacts to the pressure we put on him during the series.

"Last time around we definitely had the better of him.

"We've seen a bit of Bell, we haven't seen much of Cook and we haven't played an international game against Panesar, but they've all had some sort of impact and we'll need to have a good look at what they're doing."

First Published: Nov 06, 2006 17:33 IST