Men's Ashes 2021-22
'Shades of 06-07': Ponting's warning for England
Ricky Ponting fears England have already missed their best opportunity to get a win in the series, predicting conditions will only get better for Australia in this series
11 December 2021, 09:30 PM AEST
An Ashes whitewash reminiscent of the 2006-07 series is on the cards unless England can win in Adelaide, says Ricky Ponting, who believes the visitors blew their best opportunity of the series to win a Test.
Batting collapses either side of Joe Root and Dawid Malan's 161-run second-innings stand, along with Travis Head's rapid 152, effectively consigned England to the familiar position of being 0-1 down after the first Test of an Ashes tour.
The only welcome news for Root's side on Saturday was confirmation the series will conclude with a second day-night Test and be held in Hobart, a venue that has tended towards assisting skilful seam bowlers during recent Sheffield Shield seasons.
Many have suggested England's best hopes of an early Ashes victory will be in the second Vodafone Test in Adelaide where the swinging pink ball at night best resembles their often tough home Test batting conditions.
But Ponting suggested the sporting Gabba track played into their hands more than they will at Adelaide Oval, where England lost by 120 runs in 2017-18 despite their pacemen proving tough to play under lights.
"The conditions are only going to get better for Australia," the former Test captain told cricket.com.au. "Those conditions (in Brisbane) were very English like.
"There was more pace and bounce but as far as their bowling is concerned, they're probably not going to get that much movement anywhere else for the entire series.
"We saw them bowl really well on the last tour in Adelaide under lights where everything just fell perfectly into place – Australia had to bat for a session, the lights were on, brand new ball, clear night.
"We've also been to Adelaide at other times when the pink ball has done nothing, whether it's a new ball or not.
"If they don't win in Adelaide then there could be shades of '06-07."
Ponting reiterated his belief England made a major selection error in picking Chris Woakes over Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad at the Gabba.
With seamer Ollie Robinson and speedster Mark Wood both impressing with the ball, and Root emphasising after the match that England are eager to maintain "variety" in their bowling attack, it would appear Broad and Anderson cannot both play in the second Test unless they do not play a spinner.
Jack Leach's 13 overs were pulverised for 1-102 as part of an Australian tactic to smash him out of the attack at all costs, and Ponting suggested he could make way for Dom Bess after the off-spinner took six wickets in the ongoing England Lions-Australia A match in Brisbane.
A further consideration for England will be the fitness of Ben Stokes, who was also expensive in Brisbane and could not bowl at full pace at times as he struggled with a knee concern.
"I can't see why they would have left them (Broad and Anderson) out if they weren't just getting them prepped and ready for Adelaide," said Ponting.
"I'm still staggered to this point now. If Stuart Broad and James Anderson are not better bowlers in Australia than Chris Woakes, then I'm not here. One of those two had to play.
"It might be that they're only going to play one of Broad or Anderson in Adelaide. A lot of it might just depend on how Stokes pulls up between now and the start of the Adelaide game."
Having endorsed Usman Khawaja as Australia's replacement opener if David Warner is unable to recover from the rib injury that kept him from fielding and batting in the fourth Innings, Ponting tipped Jhye Richardson over Michael Neser to be the next man if the hosts are forced into changing their bowling attack.
Josh Hazlewood is nursing a rib concern and will need to prove his fitness for Adelaide.
"Richardson was obviously very close to playing this Test instead of Starc. He's in great form," said Ponting, noting that Neser had taken a five-wicket haul against the England Lions this week.
"When the ball's not swinging and seaming, I'd have him ahead of Neser as far as an all-round bowling package is concerned.
"Neser obviously thrives in swinging, seaming conditions that he gets at the Gabba – and might get at some stage in Adelaide – but I still think Richardson gets the nod (if required)."
Ponting also believes Cameron Green is ready to shoulder a greater workload with the ball, having impressed with three wickets in the match, including the key breakthrough of Root on day four as he swung the old ball away from the touring skipper.
His scalp of Ollie Pope on day one marked his first Test wicket despite having played all four Tests against India last summer.
"I know he was on bowling restrictions last summer but I think he's a bit underused," said Ponting. "Anytime he had the ball in his hand in Brisbane, something was happening.
"Even with the old ball he got some swing. He bowls with the newer ball for WA, he's a noted swing bowler and he (regularly) gets the opportunity with a newer ball (in the Sheffield Shield).
"Going somewhere like Adelaide where there might be some movement, I'd give him a bit more of a crack as well.
"You look at him now and you think you can easily lock him in for 15 (overs) an innings.
"Speaking to 'JL, (Australia coach Justin Langer) he talks about 'wait until he fully grows into his body and his body lets him bowl the way he can bowl' … he looks like a good prospect to me."