Ponting suggests Bell may struggle in Ashes cauldron

With the Ashes ding-dong fast approaching, Ricky Ponting yesterday became the latest in a long line of Australians to try his hand at the psychological mind games by suggesting the pressure is on England.

The tourists are without their captain Michael Vaughan and bowler Simon Jones and the form of Andrew Flintoff, Marcus Trescothick, Steve Harmison and Ashley Giles is a cause for concern. In contrast, Australia, despite seeing their pace bowler Jason Gillespie pick up an injury at the weekend, have gone from strength to strength since relinquishing the Ashes, culminating in their first ICC Champions Trophy title on Sunday, leaving Ponting in little doubt as to who is feeling the heat.

" It's definitely England," he said. "There are more questions being asked of them and their team and their fitness than there are of us. Our record this year has been very good. Their record has not been so good.

"They've won five of their 13 Tests [since the last Ashes series] and we've won 11 of our 12. Everyone back in Australia is saying we're going to start favourites, and it probably does take a bit of the pressure off and puts it on to them."

Ponting said England's Ian Bell would be the one most eager to perform as he had a tricky time against the Australians in last year's Ashes. "His record would speak for itself," the Australian captain said. "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."

Gillespie's slim hope of retaining his place in the Australian team suffered a blow after the fast bowler was ruled out of Friday's one-day match against England. Gillespie suffered a shoulder injury playing for South Australia and will not feature for the Prime Minister's XI in Canberra. But he should still get one chance to impress as England play South Australia in a three-day match at the Adelaide Oval on 17 to 19 November.

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