Ponting 'staggered' by England's tactics with the ball
Former skipper says Australia have no reason to be spooked by another England run chase as he discusses a strange final session at Old Trafford
Sam Ferris at Old Trafford
8 September 2019, 01:01 PM AEST
Test great Ricky Ponting was left "extremely surprised" by England's tactics after tea on day four of the fourth Test as the hosts fought to save the match and keep the Ashes series alive.
The clash at Old Trafford was right in the balance at tea on Saturday after new-ball pair Stuart Broad (2-54) and Jofra Archer (3-45) captured two wickets each in a brilliant spell of bowling to reduce the Australians to 4-63 with a lead of 259 runs.
Broad removed both Australia openers, David Warner (0) and Marcus Harris (6), lbw to continue his dominance over Australia's left-handers before Archer dismissed the in-form Marnus Labuschagne (11) and vice-captain Travis Head (12) to send the Old Trafford crowd wild.
Broad and Archer bowled nine overs on the trot each before England captain Joe Root employed towering quick Craig Overton and left-arm spinner Jack Leach to finish the session with Steve Smith unbeaten on 19.
But after tea, Root continued with Overton and Leach, and from the second ball of the evening session, Smith deposited the spinner straight down the ground for four to signal his aggressive intent.
Smith's assertiveness prompted Root and England to go on the defensive and slow the game down as much as possible as the Australian No.4 made a mockery of the home side’s bowling attack.
He put on 105 for the fifth wicket with Matthew Wade to steer the visitors into a commanding position, before falling for 82, his ninth consecutive score of 76 or more against England, as Australia set England 383 to win.
Watching the action unfold and the game slip away from the home side, Ponting was stunned by England's strategy to start the final session.
"I was extremely surprised at England's tactics after tea," Ponting told cricket.com.au. "To not start with one of Archer or Broad for me was staggering.
"I think the most important phase of play for England was the first hour after tea and they decided to go with Overton and Leach, and I know Overton only bowled three overs but it just seemed to quieten the whole crowd down and it gave Smith a chance to get in and get settled and start again.
"They'll have their reasons, but it seemed as though they wanted Archer and Broad to bowl late in the session and slow the game down.
"I think they bowled six overs in 40 minutes. You'd have to say it's unacceptable to bowl seven-minute overs."
England's go-slow tactics meant they only had to face seven overs late on day four, but all it took was four balls for pace ace Pat Cummins to dismiss both Rory Burns (0) and Joe Root (golden duck).
At stumps, England find themselves 2-18 with a mountain to climb, like they did heading into the final innings of the third Test at Headingley.
Set 359 to win, England were as good as beaten at 9-286 before an unforgettable century from allrounder Ben Stokes and a series of missed chances by Australia delivered the hosts a famous Ashes victory by just one wicket.
While England will use the Leeds match as inspiration to save the game at Old Trafford, Ponting says the Headingley classic won’t haunt Australia and impact how they play the fifth day on Sunday.
"It's a completely different set of circumstances," Ponting said.
"Headingley, that wicket actually got better and better. It finished middle of day four, didn't even get into the fifth day. This pitch has got worse and worse as the days have gone on.
"Australia don't need to be spooked about anything there; one for the fact they should have won, but two it's not going to be easy for anyone starting on that pitch against Australia's attack.
"Nathan Lyon didn't get any wickets in the first innings, but he will in the second innings.
"There is going to be so much on offer for him out there it's not funny.
"Even some of the balls we saw today, the spin and bounce is going to be a nightmare for anyone starting against him."
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), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval