Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Ponting’s ready for Ashes battle after stalemate

England captain Andrew Strauss admitted he was disappointed at not being able to force a victory in the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

Michael Clarke's 103 not out and 96 from Marcus North helped the visitors reach 375 for five before the sides shook hands on a draw.

“We are pretty disappointed, we came to the ground with high hopes we might be able to force victory,” Strauss said.

“But the wicket died, I can't fault the bowlers. All credit to North and Clarke, they got Australia out of a hole and took them to safety.

“It's slightly strange that the ball didn't swing today, we could not get it swinging at all and that made life a lot harder for us.”

Asked about the fitness of Andrew Flintoff ahead of the fourth Test which begins at Headingley on Friday, Strauss added: “He seems okay.

“It's one of those where you don't want to overbowl him when there is not a lot of help for him.

“We'll have to see how things settle down for Headingley but we are still pretty optimistic he will be okay.”

Australia captain Ricky Ponting was delighted with the contribution of his batsmen in the second innings.

“We knew what job we had in hand this afternoon, we knew it would be hard work but the North and Clark partnership was pretty special,” Ponting said. “It was good to get through the game the way we did.

“After we lost all that time it was pretty evident there was only one team that could win but full credit to our bowlers, they stuck at it and stopped England getting too far head.”

Asked about the form of under-fire bowler Mitchell Johnson, Ponting added: “I thought he bowled a whole lot better than in the series so far, there are some positives to come out of the game from him and he can take a bit of confidence ahead of Headingley.”

Ponting also revealed Brett Lee had bowled at a “reasonable pace” over the last few days, adding: “We have to see where he is at, it will be down to what the physios think they can get out of him over the next few days.”

Clarke was quick to praise team-mate North after the pair teamed up so effectively.

He said: “I thought Marcus North played brilliantly today once again. I had a bit of luck on my side but it was good to make a few more runs.

“Mitchell Johnson bowled really well in this game and Ben Hilfenhaus has been really fantastic in the whole series,” he said.

“Peter Siddle continues to work really hard and there are a couple of guys on the bench itching to go as well.”

England head coach Andy Flower said: “It was a hard-fought game, I thought we had a chance this morning but they played really well. We gave it everything. It was not to be.”

Flower insisted England will have to wait and see on Flintoff's fitness.

“He looked a little sore moving around in that final session,” he said.

“I think he's determined to play at Headingley but obviously he and the experts can make a considered decision whether he will play a full part or not.”

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