Ponting on the comeback trail
Australia captain Ricky Ponting took an important step in his recovery from a broken finger today when he batted for the first time since undergoing surgery.
Ponting has missed the ongoing one-day international series with England due to the injury to his little finger, which he suffered during the third Ashes Test in Perth six weeks ago.
While he played in the following Boxing Day Test, Ponting was clearly inhibited and was sent for surgery to ensure his fitness for the World Cup.
And after batting in the nets for an hour at the SCG today, the Tasmanian looks on course to be fit to play in Australia's defence, which begins on February 21.
Ponting declared himself happy with his session in the nets, but admitted he was still experiencing some discomfort.
“I'm not too bad, probably better than expected to tell you the truth,” he said.
"It's the first time I've hit any balls for close to a month.
"I started off with soft balls and plastic balls to get the feel of the bat back in my hand again, and the only ones that hurt a lot were where the bat was twisting in my hand a bit.
"But I'm pretty happy with how the day went."
There was also some bad news for Australia after Shaun Marsh was ruled out for the rest of the series against England with a hamstring injury.
The left-handed batsman underwent scans in Sydney which revealed a low-grade tear to his right hamstring.
Marsh suffered the injury while batting during Australia's 51-run win in Brisbane on Sunday, which sealed the series 4-1.
Callum Ferguson has been called up as cover for Marsh and will join the team ahead of tomorrow's sixth one-dayer in Sydney.
“Scans have confirmed Shaun has a low grade right hamstring injury," Australia team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said.
"He will return to Perth today and will be reviewed again later this week when the Australian team arrives for the final match of the Commonwealth Bank Series.
“He will be unavailable for the two remaining ODI games against England and his return to cricket will be determined by his progress over the next week.”
With the injury not deemed serious Marsh's World Cup hopes have been boosted.
The Western Australian has been touted as the likely replacement for Mike Hussey whose fitness is in doubt for the tournament after he required hamstring surgery in early January.
Ferguson, who averages 46.07 in 26 ODIs, will get the chance to press his claims in the remainder of the current series.
“Callum has an excellent record in one-day internationals for Australia and is in good form this season,” chief Australia selector Andrew Hilditch said.
"We are sure Callum will seize the opportunity that comes following the unfortunate hamstring injury suffered by Shaun Marsh."