Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's

Ponting praises Finch, Siddle call-ups

Former Test captain backs Victorian duo to make an impact in Tests against Pakistan in the UAE

Martin Smith & Louis Cameron

11 September 2018, 05:00 PM

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Former captain Ricky Ponting has backed uncapped Victorian Aaron Finch to open the batting in the Test side against Pakistan next month, while he's also praised the recall of veteran quick Peter Siddle.

On Tuesday, Finch and Siddle were both named in Australia's touring party that will travel to the UAE, the first squad picked under the leadership of new coach Justin Langer and captain Tim Paine.

Finch, Australia's T20 skipper and a mainstay of the ODI side, is uncapped at Test level but has been in good form in limited-overs matches over the winter. He's also vastly improved his first-class record in recent years; he averages just 36 overall in in long-form cricket, but that average balloons to 49 in the past four years.

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Ponting worked closely with Finch in his role as assistant coach with the Australian side earlier this year and said the right-hander has made obvious improvements to his game.

"I've seen Finchy up close and personal over the last seven or eight months ... (and) there's no doubt he's a different player than even he was 12 months ago," Ponting told cricket.com.au.

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"He understands his own game better than he ever has.

"His four-day cricket for Victoria has probably been better than anyone else in the country, probably apart from (Matthew) Renshaw."

Finch's first-class resurgence has come largely as a middle-order batsman, but Ponting believes the powerful right-hander is best suited to opening, especially on slower surfaces in the UAE.

"Definitely," Ponting said when asked if opening was Finch's best position.

"He hasn't done that for Victoria over the last few years but I think the conditions over there will suit that for him. The best time to bat in those conditions over there is against the new ball.

"He can be quite aggressive as well at the top, he's a naturally aggressive player and he scores quite quickly when he bats.

"That could be a really good way to set up a lot of the games over in that part of the world; get off to a flyer, get yourself in before the conditions get tougher and the spinners come on and the ball starts reversing."

Langer confirmed Finch and Usman Khawaja are the leading contenders to open in the UAE alongside Renshaw, with Khawaja likely to bat at No.3 if selectors hand Finch his first Baggy Green cap.

Ponting conceded the recall of Siddle after an absence of almost two years could come as a surprise to come, but added the right-armer had been impressing those in domestic circles over the past 12 months.

Siddle is fresh off a strong campaign with Essex in the United Kingdom, where he collected 37 wickets at 16 in seven four-day County Championship games for the title-holders.

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With Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood ruled out of the tour due to injury, Ponting says the Victorian's ability to tie up an end will be crucial given attacking spearhead Mitchell Starc could concede plenty of runs in his quest for wickets.

"A lot of people might be surprised to see (Siddle's) name back in a Test squad," Ponting said.

"But if you look at last summer, talking to him and a few of his Victorian teammates, he bowled as well he's bowled in a long time.

"Reading between the lines with someone like him, they'd be looking at someone to just do a job, tie up an end. He's good when the ball reverse swings and he's got that experience on his side, which a lot of players in that squad might not have.

"If you speak to people in the know, they've given him a lot of praise."

Having battled serious injuries in recent years, Siddle said being out of the spotlight of international cricket helped him focus on just taking wickets.

"I've never been one to worry about (selection) too much over ... the last 12 months, he said. "I just wanted to play cricket, enjoy it and just perform well.

"My performances in England (for Essex) have obviously helped along the way and it's given me the opportunity to get back into the side.

"I hadn't really worried about it ... but everyone kept asking me in the last few days, which made me a bit more nervous. It was nice to get the phone call."

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