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Ashes: Ricky Ponting to lead Australia in Melbourne


Ponting bats in nets despite broken finger

Ricky Ponting will captain Australia in the crucial fourth Test against England in Melbourne after declaring himself fit to play.

The 36-year-old fractured a finger when he parried a catch during Australia's 267-run third Test victory at Perth.

But he said: "The finger's good. I'm surprised how I've been able to train.

"I've batted a lot in the last two days and I took part in all the fielding stuff out there, and just made sure I caught a few balls."

Ponting batted for half an hour without discomfort in the MCG nets on Saturday and had an hour with the bat in his hand on Friday.

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He added: "I've batted a lot and took part in all the fielding stuff, made sure I caught a few balls just to get used to the feeling of it.

"Something pretty strange is going to have to happen to me today for me to not play."

Australia had brought in New South Wales batsman Usman Khawaja as precautionary cover, but the left-hander will have to wait until the new year to make his Test debut.

Ponting has an impressive record at the MCG, with a Test average of 62. However, he has only scored 58 runs against England from three innings at the ground.

He has also had a torrid series to date with the bat, averaging only slightly over 16.

He acknowledged that England's bowlers may be detailed to test out his injury with some short balls - but warns that may not be the right line of attack at the MCG.

"Maybe they will. They probably will, but it mightn't be that sort of wicket," he stated.

"It might be a wicket where you need to pitch the ball up a little bit more.

"It's supposed to be pretty overcast - I'd expect the ball to seam around a little bit and swing around a bit. I'll be prepared from whatever comes my way."

While Ponting looks ready to start on Sunday, he will vacate his regular fielding spot of second slip because of the finger injury, with mid-off his likely position to help his bowlers.

With the hosts' skipper fit, the only speculation on Christmas Day was surrounding the make-up of the final 11 and whether left-arm spinner Michael Beer would come into the side at the expense of Victorian Peter Siddle or Ben Hilfenhaus.

"We haven't finalised the 11 yet. We'll wait until the morning to see what the weather's like and if the wicket changes at all," Ponting said.

"It's a bit different than it was yesterday afternoon. It looks like there is a bit of moisture around."

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Should Australia retain the same XI which beat England so convincingly at Perth to square the five-Test series at 1-1, then vice-captain Michael Clarke could come into contention as a support spinner behind Steven Smith.

"The ball's coming out of my hand okay," said Clarke. "I've been bowling pretty well in the nets.

"I've been fit to bowl in every Test. Having Steve Smith in the team gives them that option as well. Conditions will play the biggest part there, they'll wait and see what the wicket is like tomorrow, I would imagine."

Ponting has won five of the six Test matches he has captained Australia at the MCG, the only blemish being a nine-wicket defeat by South Africa in 2008.

And the Tasmanian said he is relishing leading out his team once again in front of a world record sell-out crowd in the Victorian capital.

Asked whether his England would be intimidated by the spectacle of the event, Ponting joked: "There'll probably be 20 or 30 thousand 'Barmy Army' supporters here but I'd like to think this venue's probably one venue where they might get drowned out a little bit.

"No doubt we'll get great support. There might be even the odd 'boo' come towards the England players this week, not just me all the time."

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see also
England dominate woeful Aussies
26 Dec 10 |  England
Thursday's Ashes gossip column
23 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Cook backs under-fire Collingwood
21 Dec 10 |  England
Flower hints Finn may be rested
20 Dec 10 |  England
England crash to heavy Ashes loss
19 Dec 10 |  England
Strauss will not rule out changes
19 Dec 10 |  England
Injured Ponting targets MCG clash
19 Dec 10 |  England
Vaughan calls for Bell promotion
18 Dec 10 |  England
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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