Australia playing it cool over Ponting fitness concerns

AUSTRALIA are confident their captain Ricky Ponting will be fit for the St Stephen’s Day Ashes Test.

Ponting only took part in a light fielding practice session yesterday, and has yet to test his broken finger with a bat in his hand.

But he said just the day after fracturing a bone in his left little finger during his team’s Ashes series-levelling victory in Perth that he expected to be recovered in time to face England again at the MCG.

Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin yesterday provided no reason to believe there has been a rethink.

“He’s going to have a bat tomorrow — and with a bit of luck, all that goes to plan,” said Haddin. “At this stage the finger is recovering well. The signs are all good at this stage.”

Haddin knows how telling Ponting’s presence is too — having helped Australia through so many battles, most recently moving from an innings defeat in the second Test in Adelaide to success by 267 runs at the WACA.

“He’s our leader, and we get a lot of inspiration from him,” he added.

“You just have to see the turnaround we had from Adelaide to Perth to see the effect he has on the cricket team. It’s very important that he plays.”

Ponting may still be Australia’s leader of choice. But both he and Michael Clarke — the Test captain in waiting — have been notably short of runs this winter. Again, Haddin has no doubt they will produce the goods.

“Obviously those guys are class players. Their records prove that.

“One thing class players like is playing on the big stage, and it doesn’t get any bigger than Boxing Day.”

Australia’s wicketkeeper is also unconcerned by Kevin Pietersen’s insistence that England will not be undone a second time by Mitchell Johnson’s inswing bowling.

Johnson wrecked England’s first innings at the WACA with a spell of four wickets for seven runs, and he finished with nine in the match.

But Haddin said: “We couldn’t care less what they’re thinking about Mitchell Johnson.”

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