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Ricky Ponting confident of playing in Melbourne Test

Fourth Ashes Test: Australia v England
Venue: Melbourne Dates: 26-30 December Start time: 2330 GMT on 25 December
Coverage: Listen live on Test Match Special on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW & online; highlights (UK only) and day's review on the TMS podcast; live text commentary on BBC Sport website; live on Sky Sports 1; highlights on ITV4

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Melbourne prepares for Boxing Day showdown

Australia captain Ricky Ponting says his chances of playing in the fourth Ashes Test against England on Boxing Day in Melbourne are "very high".

Ponting fractured a finger when parrying a catch during Australia's 267-run third Test win at Perth.

But the 36-year-old has taken part in a light fielding session and intends to bat in the nets on Friday.

"If there is ever a Test you want to play it's Boxing Day in Melbourne," Ponting told The Australian.

Writing in his column, Ponting added: "I'm confident I'll be there playing in front of what we all hope will be a world-record crowd of 91,000 or more at the MCG, because it doesn't get much bigger than this.

"The prognosis has been positive. I will bat today and Christmas Day in the nets and see how it pulls up, but I will be very surprised if I'm not out in the middle tossing the coin with [England captain] Andrew Strauss come Boxing Day."

Ponting has an impressive record at the MCG, with a Test average of 62. However, he has only scored 58 runs against England from three innings at the ground.

He has also had a torrid series to date with the bat and averages only slightly over 16.

"I haven't been in the middle long enough to know whether I'm in or out of form," said the 36-year-old, who has scored just 22 runs in four innings since the first Test.

"Sometimes you just feel like you are stuck in a trough and can't get out - and it has been a bit like that for me.

"But I am going to keep doing the things I have always done, and it will turn."

Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin spoke of the captain's importance to the team ahead of what could prove to be a crucial fourth Test with the series tied 1-1.

"The signs are all good at this stage. It's very important that he plays," he said.

Vaughan rips into Aussie top order

Ponting is not alone in struggling with the bat, as vice-captain Michael Clarke averages only 23 in the series, but Ponting believes they can both hit form in Melbourne.

"As team leaders Michael Clarke and I know our performances have to improve," he added.

"I actually look at our lack of runs as a positive going forward. We just can't keep performing this badly.

"If you watch us train it would appear that nothing is amiss. It's not as if we're struggling. Far from it. I feel good and Michael looks as good as he ever has."

Concurring, Haddin added: "Obviously those guys are class players. Their records prove that.

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"One thing class players like is playing on the big stage, and it doesn't get any bigger than Boxing Day."

After their success in Perth, Australia have also been buoyed by the uncertainty in the opposition ranks, with England fast bowlers James Anderson and Steven Finn both reportedly feeling stiff after their Waca exertions.

"We've got a really good feeling about our group, and there are whispers about some of their bowlers being sore - Anderson and Finn and all that stuff - so the shoe's on the other foot at this moment," said Ponting.

"They're thinking harder about the make-up of their team, which is different from after Adelaide."

Australia called up uncapped Pakistan-born New South Wales batsman Usman Khawaja, 24, as cover.

The national selection panel chairman Andrew Hilditch explained: "Through an abundance of caution we have named Khawaja on standby."

The left-handed batsman has been the outstanding player in this season's Sheffield Shield, leading the run-scoring charts with 598 at an average of 74.75.

Usman Khawaja
Pakistan-born Khawaja would be the first Muslim to play for Australia

However, the attacking batsman, who moved to Australia as a young boy, said he was not expecting a call-up to play at the MCG.

"The boys had a great win in Perth and I am just happy to be doing the job for NSW," he commented.

Australia levelled the best-of-five match Test series at 1-1 with the victory in Perth last week, although England remain in the box seat, needing only to draw the series to retain the Ashes.

The fourth Test starts at 2330 GMT on Christmas Day with the final match following at Sydney in the first week of the new year.


England (from): AJ Strauss (captain), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, IR Bell, MJ Prior (wkt), GP Swann, TT Bresnan, CT Tremlett, JM Anderson, A Shahzad, ST Finn.

Australia (from): RT Ponting (captain), PJ Hughes, SR Watson, MJ Clarke, MEK Hussey, SPD Smith, BJ Haddin (wkt), MG Johnson, RJ Harris, BW Hilfenhaus, PM Siddle, MA Beer, UT Khawaja.

Umpires: A Dar (Pkn) and T Hill (NZ)

Third umpire: M Erasmus (SA)

Match referee: R Madugalle (SL)



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see also
Bell focused on England victory
23 Dec 10 |  England
Thursday's Ashes gossip column
23 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Cook backs under-fire Collingwood
21 Dec 10 |  England
Flower hints Finn may be rested
20 Dec 10 |  England
England crash to heavy Ashes loss
19 Dec 10 |  England
Strauss will not rule out changes
19 Dec 10 |  England
Injured Ponting targets MCG clash
19 Dec 10 |  England
Vaughan calls for Bell promotion
18 Dec 10 |  England
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket


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