Birthday boy Ponting all smiles
Ricky Ponting thanked Australia for giving him with a “great birthday present”, despite the captain being unable to take to the field in Perth.
Ponting, who fractured a finger in the penultimate over yesterday, watched from the dressing room as Australia wrapped up a comprehensive 267-run win with more than five sessions to spare to draw level in the series.
The tourists lost their last five wickets in 50 minutes at the WACA this morning, bowled out for just 123 in pursuit of a notional 391 for victory.
Ryan Harris claimed four of those to finish with Test-best figures of 6-47, while Mitchell Johnson’s dismissal of Graeme Swann gave him 9-82 in the match.
“It’s a great birthday present to win an Ashes Test match the way we have this week,” said Ponting, who turned 36 today.
“I was hoping yesterday afternoon that things would work out this way. It’s great for the boys to have played this well.
“We’ve had a lot of doubters over the last couple of weeks, with the way that we’ve played. We knew we had to turn things around pretty dramatically and pretty quickly.
“The brand of cricket we’ve played this week is more like the cricket that we’re used to playing.”
Although Ponting took part in the warm-up before play, he erred on the side of caution by not risking an injury sustained while attempting to catch Jonathan Trott at second slip.
Vice-captain Michael Clarke led Australia in his absence, but Ponting played down fears that he may play no further part in the series by predicting a return to action on Boxing Day. He was later included in an unchanged 12-man squad for the fourth Test.
“It’s a bit sore today,” he said of the little finger on his left hand. “I would have loved more than anything to be out there in the field this morning.
“I can’t afford to take another knock on it right now. I’ve just got to let it heal over the next week and I think I’ve got a really good chance of playing in Melbourne.
“I haven’t been game enough to grab a handle of a bat yet. I’ll wait a couple of days for that. As far as fingers go, it’s probably not a bad one to break.
“I’m not going to be silly and put myself ahead of the team in such an important game.
“If I don’t think I can function well then I won’t play, but if I feel I can play some way better than I have been playing then I’ll play.”
Australia’s decision not to play a recognised spinner was vindicated initially by England being bowled out for 187 in the first innings, for which Johnson can take much credit.
The left-armer’s stunning burst on the second day sparked a collapse that saw five wickets fall for 20 runs, a spell which Ponting feels may prove to be a turning point in an Ashes campaign that was heading rapidly south for Australia.
"Mitch’s spell was unbelievable, probably one of the all-time great Ashes spells, and to have that happen when it did and to have him coming into the game probably under a little bit of pressure as well was an amazing achievement for him and brilliant for the team," he said.
“It’s always hard to start here at the WACA. We got that one breakthrough and that spell changed the course of this Test match, and maybe the course of the series.
“Some of our guys are in the best form of their career and hopefully that can continue for a couple of weeks yet.”
England’s perceived shortcomings on pitches conducive to pace bowling also played a part in Ponting and the selectors’ thinking, although the skipper revealed Australia will “reassess” their options on an MCG surface expected to be significantly slower than the WACA.
Ponting confirmed: “The team I wanted was the four quicks, with what I could see in the wicket and knowing some of the results England have had against good fast bowling on bouncy wickets over the last couple of years.
“We got it spot on. We got it exactly right, the attack we needed for these conditions.
“The fact that we had four quicks gave me a good chance to be able to rotate them and keep them pretty fresh. They were able to come on and be hostile if needed.
“We’ve set ourselves a new set of standards, which we have to make sure we maintain for the rest of the series.”