x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ponting as motivated as ever ahead of Ashes series

The Australia captain has no plans to follow his one-time Ashes rival Michael Vaughan into retirement.

Ricky Ponting has not mellowed with age and fatherhood and the Australia captain has no plans to follow his one-time Ashes rival Michael Vaughan into retirement. Ponting has been involved in some feisty exchanges with England, including his verbal outburst towards the then coach Duncan Fletcher at Trent Bridge four years ago after being run out by substitute fielder Gary Pratt. He is now a proud father and will start his last Ashes series in England at Cardiff next Wednesday.Ponting has not lost that competitive edge as the tourists prepare for their final warm-up game against the England Lions at Worcester starting today.

"I've not mellowed as a competitor or a cricketer. I hope I'm as competitive as I've ever been on the field," he said. "Things away from the field are pretty good, although being here for the last five weeks and not having the little one around has been difficult and different. "I am as competitive as ever. I am loving the game as much as ever and I am involved in a really youthful group of blokes who are a joy to be around. We've just come off a really good win in South Africa. The feeling in the group was terrific and it has been over here these last couple of weeks.

"To me, this is as exciting as it gets, to be captain of Australia in England in an Ashes series with a new group of players." Sri Lanka have picked three uncapped players, while wicketkeeper batsman Prasanna Jayawardene was excluded from a 15-man squad for the first Test against Pakistan. Prasanna was ruled out due to a finger injury sustained last week and uncapped Kaushal Silva was named in his place. It is uncertain whether Silva would debut in the first Test, which starts on Saturday, as captain Kumar Sangakkara and top-order batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan are both accomplished wicketkeepers.

"A specialist wicketkeeper is important, but we have two other keepers in the squad, myself and Dilshan," Sangakkara said. "The balance of the side is the important thing. This is a great chance for someone to make a mark personally and for the team." * Agencies