Ponting to lead Australia’s Ashes warm-up in Ireland
Ricky Ponting is set to return to Ireland as captain of a strong Australia ‘A’ side — part of the preparations for next summer's Ashes series.
The game, which will take place in June while the one-day players are involved in the Champions Trophy, was confirmed by Australia High Performance Manager Pat Howard.
No venue has been discussed for the four-day game but as it is does not have to be a recognised international venue, other grounds outside of Malahide, Clontarf, Stormont and Bready can be considered.
Howard said that he expected all the Test players not involved in the one-day international series in England to figure, as well as the best of the Australia Under-19 side.
That is likely to mean that as well as Ponting, opening batsman Ed Cowan, who scored his maiden Test century against South Africa last week, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja plus bowlers Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyons will all be in the line-up.
The involvement of the Under-19 players, who faced Ireland at the World Cup in Australia in August, follows a request from National Talent Manager Greg Chappell, another former Australia captain.
“The advantage of working with a Ricky Ponting or a Peter Siddle, we see that as a great opportunity,” said Howard, who has been involved in the detailed planning of the Ashes tour.
The original plan was to play four-day games against English county sides but they were only willing to organise three-day matches so, with the help of ICC, four-day contests have been arranged against Ireland and Scotland.
“We were genuinely worried some of the guys would go to the Ashes underdone in long-form cricket,” added Howard.
Ponting scored an undefeated century at Eglinton back in 1997 and captained the Australia team in the rain-aborted match at Ormeau four years later.
He led the Aussies in the 2007 World Cup clash against Ireland in Barbados and was still at the helm when they played in Dublin in the first ODI between the teams here in 2010.
Australia played at Stormont last June, with Ponting omitted from the ODI squad, but rain meant the match was abandoned after less than 45 minutes play.
The last time Ireland played Australia ‘A’ in a first-class game was at Rathmines in 1998 when the tourists won by five wickets.