Ponting hits out with first Ashes blast

Bullish Australia captain questions IPL excursions by Flintoff and Pietersen

Picky Ponting has arrived. He means business. The captain of Australia will be in England for four months and yesterday, as lucidly as one of his booming front-foot drives, he made it plain that by the end of September he intends to have annexed the World Twenty20, the Ashes and the one-day series. Most of all the Ashes.

The captain of Australia was in splendid form and his opening public remarks were trenchant, pertinent and mischievous. He was in Nottingham officially at the behest of the International Cricket Council to offer some thoughts on the impending World Twenty20. But Ponting knew the score, he knew that he was there to be ambushed to talk of the Ashes so he simply headed off his interrogators at the pass.

It was perfectly charming stuff by a supreme batsman on his fourth Ashes tour, but it was full of little asides, carefully placing doubt, stressing how wonderful life is in Australia's camp. He knew exactly where to hurt the old enemy – by questioning ever so gently the fitness of their best players, the currently injured Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen and musing whether they would be able or should be picked to play in the first part of the series.

"That's the big decision the England selectors will have to make before the first Test," he said. "Flintoff is obviously very important to their set up but as we saw in 2007, if he is not 100 per cent fit then maybe the sort of impact he can make is not there."

Ponting was quite willing to expand, to let his audience know that, of course, he had thought about this and might like what he saw. "From 2005 to 2007 we saw two completely different players and that had a lot to do with the level of fitness he had under his belt leading into each series," he said. "I think they are going to have to make a big decision. I don't know where Pietersen is at either, I don't know how bad his Achilles problem is, they could face something similar there as well." He had not been asked about Pietersen but he was not about to miss out on the opportunity to mention him.

Ponting, like his senior colleagues Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey, deliberately withdrew from the Indian Premier League to rest himself for a busy summer of cricket. Flintoff and Pietersen both played in the tournament and both are now injured.

"I don't really know the full extent of their injuries and how much cricket they had actually played leading into the IPL. I was only worried about the players in my side and what our workloads had been like," Ponting said. "With the amount of big tournaments we have coming up it was about making sure we were in the best shape."

The inference was that Flintoff and Pietersen might not have gone to South Africa considering what lay ahead. But then they had so much to earn. "There was obviously great incentive with the amount of money that they both went for. For us it was a great opportunity to step away from cricket for a few weeks and make sure we were in the best shape we could be in." Flintoff and Pietersen might have felt additional pain in their knee and Achilles, respectively, at that point.

Ponting has been reinvigorated by Australia's triumphant tour of South Africa earlier this year. Against the odds, with a remodelled team and following defeats in India and at home against South Africa, his team won 2-1.

"It's one of the highlights of my career walking off in Durban with those younger guys behind me," he said. "I purposely walked off about 10 paces ahead of the group and stopped at the boundary to look back to see Phil Hughes with a big smile on his face and Marcus North and Andrew McDonald hugging each other. It was great to see them find out what they are capable of achieving."

This was not the hard-nosed, steely professional Ponting but the old romantic from small-town Tasmania. "I said when this transitional phase started I saw it as being one of the most exciting periods of my career and I haven't been disappointed yet. I am confident we can keep growing here and put up a really good showing."

But surely Australia are not as good as they were, Ricky? "I can understand people thinking that, [after we have lost] some of the all-time greats. But I am intimidated by good players not names." Welcome Ricky, welcome Australia. Whatever lies ahead, they were spellbinding opening shots.

Ashes Watch: 39 DAYS TO GO

Brett Lee: officially too nice to be an Aussie. He yesterday described Andrew Flintoff as "the world's best bloke". Expect he'll bowl a long-hop to get Fred off the mark in Cardiff, too.

Suggested Topics
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk