Ponting suggests big shake-up for 'worst ever' England

Aussie great insists England's batting is 'simply not good enough' for Test level, adding it's time the English system took some cues from Australia's approach

After multiple fruitless Ashes tours throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Cricket Australia introduced the Dukes ball into the Sheffield Shield in a bid to better prepare players for the mysteries that awaited in the UK.

The move away from the Kookaburra for half the season, the brainchild of former performance chief Pat Howard, was not universally popular but even the idea's harshest critics would concede it was at least a small factor in Australia's improved performance during the 2019 Ashes tour.

It was not a series win but the 2-2 draw was a vast improvement on previous attempts to win in 2015 (3-2 to England, though the series was clinched by the hosts with a Test to spare), 2013 (3-0 England) and 2009 (2-1 England).

Now, with Joe Root's men having slumped to their third consecutive Ashes tour defeat in a humiliating third-morning batting display, former Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes it is time for the shoe to be put on the other foot.

Australia's all-time leading Test run scorer believes the current group of tourists make up the worst England team he has seen down under.

"I don't think I've seen a worse-performing team in Australia than what I've seen over the last three games," Ponting told cricket.com.au.

He is not the first to call for change to England's domestic program.

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Issues over when four-day cricket is played, the standard of pitches, a disconnect between counties and the national governing body as well the balance of multiple short-format tournaments have been widely identified as barriers for producing Test-ready cricketers.

David Warner has even suggested England's batters should practice more on synthetic wickets in training to prepare for the extra bounce in Australia.

But Ponting believes the introduction of the Kookaburra ball in county cricket, combined with a greater focus on preparing pitches that more closely resemble those used for Tests, could be a helpful first step.

"We've been through this in Australia," said Ponting. "You wind the clock back a few years ago when we had our struggles in England, we changed conditions, we changed the ball, we changed everything because we were poor in those conditions.

"England might need to have a look at how they can make their conditions more suitable to ours.

"They play well in England still but they don't play well when they come here – so maybe they play more with the Kookaburra ball.

"Maybe they flatten the wickets out a little bit so there's not as much swing and seam, so the batters are making bigger scores and batting for longer periods of time.

"It might be the exact same blip that (Australia) had to have three or four years ago."

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Ponting said the quality of England's batting is of particular concern.

Joe Root has piled on 1,708 runs at 61 over the past 12 months – the third-most runs scored in a calendar year in Test history – but their skipper aside, England have had an abysmal year with the bat.

Only Dawid Malan (308 runs at 34.22 this year) has averaged more than 30 in 2021 with the likes of Zac Crawley (173 runs at 10.81), Haseeb Hameed (205 runs at 18.85) and Ollie Pope (368 runs at 21.64) all struggling before and during the ongoing Ashes series.

Even Ben Stokes (304 runs at 21.71) has struggled.

Ponting stressed it is becoming too familiar a script after winless series in 2013-14 (5-0 Australia) and 2017-18 (4-0).

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"Some of the English top-order batters that I've seen in the last couple of tours, without giving names, there's some techniques there that I just know are not going to stand up at Test level," he said.

"In challenging conditions and world-class bowlers up against sub-standard techniques, then you get what happened today (at the MCG).

"The little swing dibbly-dobblers that are getting them out over there (in county cricket), they're not facing that at Test level.

"They're facing guys who can actually bowl.

"What I've seen with their batting, they're just simply not good enough."