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Ponting keeps his options open

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Captain Ricky Ponting claims places are still up for grabs in the Australia side, with the first npower Ashes Test in Cardiff only a week away.

Ponting will lead Australia out today in their tour match against England Lions at New Road with question marks hanging over the tourists’ bowling department.

Seamer Peter Siddle is being rested for the four-day fixture, having all but secured his place in the side with an impressive performance against Sussex at Hove, and left-arm pace bowler Mitchell Johnson is surely certain to play in the Ashes opener - whatever Ponting's insistence that no-one's place is guaranteed.

Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting insists no decisions have been made regarding the make-up of his bowling attack for the first Test

That leaves off-spinner Nathan Hauritz - the only specialist slow bowler in the squad - and pace bowlers Brett Lee and Stuart Clark to fight for the other two spots in what is expected to be a four-man attack.

Hauritz is struggling to make an impression, while Lee has still to regain his past form after undergoing ankle surgery over the winter.

Ponting said: “The important thing now is that there are absolutely no certainties for the first Test right at this moment.

“We are still a week or so from Cardiff, and lots of things can happen and change in that period of time. The spots are still up for grabs.

“There are five fast bowlers in our squad, probably all of whom feel they should be playing in that first Test.

“Taking three into this game is another great opportunity for them to put their names forward and impress with what they can do.”

Nathan Hauritz

Nathan Hauritz can expect to feature heavily at New Road as Ponting casts an eye over his only specialist spinner

Ponting expects the wicket at Cardiff to turn, which is why he is keen to see Hauritz make his mark at Worcester.

He said: “I’ve got all the statistics for the season of all the spinners who have played county cricket down at Cardiff.

“I’ve had a look at their figures and what they’ve done. Danish Kaneria (of Essex) seems like he was pretty hard work to play against.

“He has taken a lot of wickets, but there have been some indifferent figures as well. They make some interesting reading. We will have to make a more informed judgement when we get down there.”

As for Hauritz, Ponting said: “He is playing again here. The plan from the start was to give him good opportunities to play in the first two games and get some good quality bowling under his belt against some good players in these sort of conditions.

“Last week for him was a really good blow-out, the first time he has been back playing four-day cricket for quite a while. He didn’t play in the South African Test series and has been in and out of our one-day side.

“He has been starved of four-day cricket for quite a while. That game last week should have done him the world of good. He has trained very well and hard the last couple of days.

“There are good signs there. He is always willing to put in the hard work, to try and learn and try different things, so we hope he will get some results out of this game for us.”

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