Ponting turns up the heat
Aussie skipper piling more pressure on England
Last Updated: 19/08/09 4:27pm
Ponting: breathing a little easier
Ricky Ponting is delighted to see all the pressure on his opposite number Andrew Strauss as the two captains prepare for their Ashes decider at the Brit Oval.
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"I think there'll be huge pressure on him. It's always hard making your debut in a Test match against an Australian team, let alone it being in such a big game as this."
Ricky Ponting on Jonathan Trott Quotes of the week
The Australian skipper is pleased to see Strauss having to contend with the variables of Andrew Flintoff's fitness in and how debutant batsman Jonathan Trott may adapt to the rise in class.
It is Strauss' England too who must make things happen over the next five days, in the knowledge a stalemate plays into Australia's hands.
The only price Ponting and Co will pay for a draw rather than win is the loss of their number one Test ranking. The greater prize of the Ashes will be secure as long as they can keep the score at 1-1.
Ponting identifies Flintoff and Trott's contributions as key, and Strauss' handling of both equally crucial. "It's fair to say he's got a few more things on his plate at the moment than we have," said the Australia captain.
"But it's only a couple of weeks ago I was sitting around answering all those questions."
Ponting knows exactly what to do to keep Strauss under the microscope - and is encouraged by his team's performances throughout the summer.
"If you look right back to the start of the first Test there have been very few instances where we've played really poor cricket," he believes.
"Most of the games we've played we've had some really dominating periods. That's what we need to do again this week.
"If we do that some of these things Andrew is going to have to think about will, we hope, raise their heads."
He cites Trott - batting replacement for the out-of-form Ravi Bopara - as a prime example.
"I think there'll be huge pressure on him," Ponting said of the 28-year-old Warwickshire player.
"It's always hard making your debut in a Test match against an Australian team, let alone it being in such a big game as this."
The tourists have unsurprisingly done plenty of homework too on England's South Africa-born new face.
"Once we realised he was named in their side, we've had a good chance to have a look at the way he plays," Ponting confirms.
"We've spoken to quite a few of the Australian guys round the county circuit about it and have some one-day and Twenty20 footage.
"It's up to us when he gets his chance to bat to keep him under pressure from the start and not let him get any cheap early runs."
Ponting is confident England's frailties extend beyond just Trott right through a middle order which managed just 16 runs from six attempts at Headingley.
"With (Ian) Bell having to move up in the order, there is the opportunity still there if we can knock the openers over nice and early," Ponting suggests.
"There's no doubt that the three they've got in that middle order are going to be under some sort of pressure at different times."
Further down the order, Flintoff's inclusion for a glorious farewell presents different problems for England - according to Ponting, who warns of the pressure of expectation.
"That is something he and they are going to have to handle. There will be some distractions there," he predicts.
The flip side is that Flintoff is one player whose abilities merit huge respect from the opposition.
"He's been a terrific player for England for a long time," Ponting acknowledges.
"He does add a bit to the England team - there's no doubt about that. Whenever he comes on to bowl or in to bat, the whole crowd gets behind him. But with that, there will be extra pressure on him as well - playing his last game and knowing it's such an important game for the England team."