x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Hosts confident captain Ponting will lead team

James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief, expects Ricky Ponting to play in the fourth Ashes Test at the MCG.

James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief, expects Ricky Ponting to play in the fourth Ashes Test at the MCG.

Ponting fractured a little finger in the emphatic third Test win over England in Perth but, despite the selectors adding Usman Khawaja, the New South Wales (NSW) batsman, to the squad as cover yesterday, Sutherland remains convinced the Tasmanian will be fit to lead the home side.

He said: "You'd need something pretty significant to keep Ricky Ponting out of it. He would himself admit that he learnt a little bit about himself and carrying injuries into the last Boxing Day Test match.

"I think this finger injury is something different.

"It will obviously be monitored and managed and treated accordingly, but I'd be very surprised from here if he wasn't fit to play."

Andrew Hilditch, the national selection panel (NSP) chairman, explained the call-up of Khawaja was only precautionary at this stage. "While the NSP are confident Ricky Ponting will be available for the Boxing Day Test, through an abundance of caution we have named Usman Khawaja as the stand-by player," he said.

"Usman richly deserves this opportunity following his excellent form at domestic level last season and continuing on this season."

The uncapped Khawaja has been in outstanding form in this season's Sheffield Shield, leading the run-scoring charts with 598 at an average of 74.75. And the Pakistan-born left-hander insists he is ready if called upon by his adopted country to replace Ponting.

"I've said this before - I think I was ready when I was six years old," he said. "I think everyone's ready to play for Australia.

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