Australia captain Ricky Ponting and England paceman James Anderson passed fitness tests yesterday and are set to take their place in the fourth Ashes Test, raising the prospect of both teams going in with unchanged teams.
Ponting had been in doubt after suffering a broken little finger in the third Test, but batted in the nets and said “the finger’s good. I’m pretty surprised at how I’ve been able to train.”
While the Australia skipper looks ready to start today, he will vacate his regular fielding spot of second slip because of the finger injury.
“The boys have been joking about that this morning actually, that I could be fine leg to fine leg through the game,” Ponting said of his new fielding position. “I won’t be at second slip but I’ll find somewhere where I can keep myself in the game.”
Anderson had also been doubtful with a side strain but bowled at close to full pace in the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) nets over the past two days, including a light England session yesterday as both teams mixed preparation for the vital Test with some Christmas celebrations.
England captain Andrew Strauss said Anderson was “100 percent fit and available for selection.” Strauss said he was “very confident” his team could recover from last week’s 267-run defeat in Perth.
“We had a few days off which was much needed — it’s been quite a long tour — and we came here and there’s been a lot of buzz and energy about the team over the past couple of days,” he said.
While Ponting has had difficulty at the crease in this series he has averaged 62.42 in 13 Tests at the MCG, where officials are expecting a record crowd of 91,000-plus on the first day.
Australia have not named its side, although selectors may stick with the four-man pace attack which was successful in Perth, which would mean uncapped spinner Michael Beer would be 12th man.
Uncapped batsman Usman Khawaja is on standby for Ponting but it’s unlikely the left-hander will be required.
“We haven’t finalized the 11 yet.” Ponting said. “We’ll wait until the morning to see one, what the weather’s like, and two, if the wicket changes at all.”