'Signs are all good' for Ponting
Australia are confident their captain Ricky Ponting will be fit for the Boxing Day Test.
Ponting took part this morning in a light fielding practice session, 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 today provided no reason to believe there had 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 vice-captain Michael Clarke 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,” he said.
"One thing class players like is playing on the big stage, and it doesn't get any bigger than Boxing Day. It'll be exciting to watch them playing Boxing Day."
Along with Clarke and Ponting, replacement opener Phil Hughes failed twice in Perth.
Haddin, however, expects much better in Melbourne from the left-hander.
"He just came into the team last week and obviously just got a couple of good balls,” Haddin recalled. "I don't think you could read too much into it."
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.
Pietersen yesterday declared himself satisfied that there will be no repeat at the MCG, but Haddin said: "We couldn't care less what they're thinking about Mitchell Johnson.
"We've got our plans and the way we want to play our cricket. If England want to look at that, that's fine."
Haddin is also optimistic about the role left-arm slow bowler Michael Beer may play on debut, if he is chosen in front of what was his home crowd until he headed for Western Australia.
"He's a quality spinner,” Haddin continued. "The little I have seen of him, he likes the contest and is a very competitive bowler.
"He's fitted into our group very well - and we're looking forward, if he gets his opportunity, to another Australian getting a debut at Test cricket. He'll do Australia and himself proud."