Ponting will be 'best since Bradman'

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The Independent Online

Ricky Ponting will go on to become Australia's greatest batsman since Don Bradman, according to the former national captain Steve Waugh.

Ponting made 196 as the hosts racked up 602 for 9 before declaring, joining Waugh as Australia's most prolific century-maker with 32 to his name.

"I have no doubt he will finish as our best batsman after Bradman," Waugh said of his successor as Australia's captain. "Averages now are probably five to seven runs higher than they used to be because boundaries have been brought in, but I still think Ricky is the most mentally tough batsman in the world at the moment. He has an insatiable appetite for runs and he knows how to get them."

Ponting's England counterpart, Andrew Flintoff, admitted that Australia had "hit England hard" after a disappointing day.

"They batted well and hit us hard and they've taken three quick wickets," Flintoff said. "We need a couple of big partnerships to get past 400 and we need to occupy some time as well.

"We started off with a few nerves jangling. It's a big occasion with a big crowd. We started to get better and Matthew Hoggard took quick wickets and James Anderson played well."

Flintoff conceded that the fast bowler Steve Harmison was still not back to his best. "Steve is the first to admit he has not bowled as well as he can. It's not for the lack of trying and he needs to get some consistency. He's not at his best but he is striving to be there."

Glenn McGrath, playing his first Test since January after taking a break from the game to care for his sick wife, Jane, was delighted with his two early wickets.

"It doesn't matter which game you play, if you get a couple of early wickets you can really settle down and get into the innings and work on your plans," the Australian paceman said. "I never had any doubts because I think my fitness is probably as good as it's ever been. Bowling on the wickets in India with those conditions and coming back here on a wicket with a bit of bounce is like Christmas."