Ponting backs incumbents to fire at Lord's
Former skipper looks ahead to the second Test and says Nathan Lyon "absolutely" deserves to be rated as one of Australia's greatest ever bowlers
6 August 2019, 05:40 PM AEST
Former skipper Ricky Ponting says Australia could well name an unchanged XI for the second Ashes Test, meaning pace stars Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood may have to sit on the sidelines for a second consecutive Test match.
And Ponting believes England face "a really big decision" about what type of pitch to prepare at Lord's next week, saying Australia's thumping win at Edgbaston has exposed the home side's batting frailties.
With more than a week between Tests, Ponting sees no reason why Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle won't be able to play at Lord's, saying the conditions at the Home of Cricket will determine whether or not they hold their places in the side.
The former skipper says a flat surface could convince the Australians to replace Siddle with Starc, but was quick to add the Victorian should be able to use the famous Lord's slope to his advantage in the same way Glenn McGrath did during his decorated career.
"I know there was talk about managing Pattinson through the series," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"But with nine days between games and he only bowled eight overs in the second innings, you'd think he'd be fine physically.
"So there's an argument to not change the team.
"If it looks like it'll be a wicket that offers a bit to Sidds, he'd stay in. If it looks like it'll be a flat and dry one, there might be a case to make a change.
"We know McGrath has a great record at Lord's and loved bowling there. He used to seam the ball back down the slope because he wasn't a big swing bowler. The way Sidds is bowling now is actually quite similar to the way McGrath bowled in his last few years.
"I actually think (the Lord's slope) will suit all of our bowlers pretty well."
Ponting believes the focus is squarely on how England react to the loss in Birmingham and how the injury to seam star Jimmy Anderson dictates the type of pitch they prepare for the second Test.
"That's a really tough question and I don't even think they know the answer to that," he said.
"I said before the series started that they've got as many frailties in their batting line-up as we might have. The perception was that our batting was going to be quite weak going into the series and the bowling was going to be our strong point, but I think we can say exactly the same thing about England's line-up.
"I know Rory Burns got a hundred, but Joe Denly, Jason Roy and even Jos Buttler to a certain degree, they're not out-and-out world-beaters at Test level.
"The decision for them is a tough one; do they expose their weakest suit to seaming conditions, or do they prepare something they think will give their batters the best chance?"
The former Aussie skipper added making wholesale changes would be a sign of panic from the England side, and dismissed the suggestion that the hosts can't regain the urn if Anderson is ruled out of the entire series.
But he said England's senior players, some of which are coming off the high of their recent World Cup win, would need to stand up.
"Maybe there's a bit of a let-down mentally (after the World Cup), but you'd like to think those guys are strong enough to get over that," he said. "Guys like Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler and even Ben Stokes who are relatively new to Ashes cricket, you'd like to think they'd get themselves up for that contest.
"Bairstow got a pair in that Ireland Test as well (as two low scores at Edgbaston), so he's done pretty much nothing since the end of the World Cup.
"I think if they did make (multiple) changes now, it'd be a sign of real panic. If I was in the Aussie team and I saw they'd made a couple of changes to their batting as well as the forced change with Anderson, I'd feel pretty good about myself.
"Any change would be based on conditions, but I think it'd be in their best interests to stick with what they've got."
Ponting also lauded Australia's spin star Nathan Lyon, whose nine-wicket haul at Edgbaston took him past 350 for his career and to within just three of legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee.
Ponting said the 31-year-old "absolutely" deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest bowlers Australia has ever produced, and pointed to a tour of Sri Lanka three years ago – after which Lyon was publicly called out by captain Steve Smith and coach Darren Lehmann for his disappointing performance – as the turning point of his career.
"Pretty much from the end of that series on, he's been a completely different bowler," Ponting said of his former teammate.
"I know there was a kick in the backside for him … and it was pretty public from both captain and the coach about him. I'm not sure if that's what spurred him on or not but looking back now it certainly looks like it's been the turning point in his career.
"There's not a doubt in anyone's mind now about the calibre of bowler Nathan Lyon is.
"He absolutely deserves to be in that category (alongside Australia's greatest ever bowlers). Players have always been judged on their numbers and it's not like he's played against weak teams every other week. He's played against the best.
"I actually think he's getting better and better as well. I think he can be considered for a T20 role because he's just that good now.
"He's deserves everything that's coming his way regarding his stature in the game."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval