Ponting: England producing pitches that suit them

Australia

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has questioned England's arguably unsporting manipulation of conditions during the ongoing Ashes series.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has questioned England's arguably unsporting manipulation of conditions during the ongoing Ashes series.

The hosts, sporting a two-nil series lead after a 14-run win at Trent Bridge, 347-run triumph at Lord's and rain-affected draw at Old Trafford, have benefited from the prolific performance of spinner Graeme Swann.

Swann has clinched 19 wickets in three matches, including a match haul of nine for 122 in London, with Ponting suggesting the Englishman has largely exploited pitches primed for turn and bounce.

"It was significant that Australia won the toss for the first time because the type of dry wickets being produced for this Ashes makes it very important to bat first if you win it, as has happened three times," Ponting wrote in the <i>Daily Mail</i>.

"This concept of a country producing wickets to order is alien to me, but we saw it in India and now in this series because, whatever England might say, it is clear what is being asked of the groundsmen in this series.

"While I don't doubt how good Swann is, it has helped him that we have had so many left-handers in our line-up. Maybe, in hindsight, that was a mistake but they are Australia's best players and their experience against him will do them good.

"I'm not saying what England have done is right or wrong but I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that, as Australia captain, I never spoke to a curator about what conditions we would like."

Ponting, meanwhile, admitted the visiting batsman are relying on captain Michael Clarke for substantial innings. Clarke, thanks largely to the 187 scored in Manchester, has amassed 319 runs in three matches.

Opener Chris Rogers, all-rounder Shane Watson, the left-handed Usman Khawaja, middle-order batsman Steven Smith, the recalled David Warner and the discarded Phil Hughes and Ed Cowan, however, have consistently disappointed.

"We know how good Michael is and the most impressive thing about his innings in Manchester was his ability to forget about all that has happened to him and the team on this tour, compartmentalise and just concentrate purely on batting," he added.

"It was something I always felt comfortable doing when I was captain and Michael's figures since he took over show you that leadership has enhanced his game rather than taken anything away from it.

"They must look at how Michael did it at Old Trafford and learn from his example because these are our best batsmen and the selectors were right to stick with them. I felt a bit for Phil being left out because he was moved from six to four in the order and then dropped."

The fourth – and penultimate – Test will get underway at the Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street, Durham on Friday.

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