x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Ponting must write new chapter

With this likely to be Ricky Ponting's last Ashes series on English soil, the captain remains determined to fill the only void on his glittering CV.

The rain fell incessantly and the darkening skies engulfed a grim-looking Edgbaston, where not a ball was bowled yesterday. Sitting in the Australia changing-room, captain Ricky Ponting sat powerless as the puddles continued to form on the sodden outfield. Amid the gloom, England captain Andrew Strauss has already disregarded Australia's glowing "aura" as a relic of the past.

Now Australia - according to Strauss at least - are "just like any other team". Those words would have hit a nerve with Ponting, especially given the fact that he wore the baggy green during an era where Australia appeared invincible. With this likely to be Ponting's last Ashes series on English soil, the 34-year-old batsman remains determined to fill the only void on his glittering CV. The pain of 2005 has never healed for the diminutive player and despite having won nearly every team and individual honour in the game, the holy grail of the Ashes remains the premier prize.

In all probability, the tourists will now arrive at Headingley next Friday needing a single win from the two remaining matches to retain the famous old urn they won in such convincing fashion two years ago. Nobody could have imagined this scenario when Australia dominated so thoroughly in Cardiff - a match they would have won had it not been for the superhuman efforts of James Anderson and Monty Panesar.

Ponting will not panic. Losing at Lord's was painful, not just because it ended his side's 75-year unbeaten record at the home of cricket, but because of the manner of the defeat. Australia were comprehensively outplayed by an average England side led by a man in Andrew Flintoff who is determined to finish his Test career by fulfilling what he believes to be his destiny. Whereas in years past Ponting could have turned to some of the greatest men to have ever played the game, he now boasts a younger and far more inexperienced squad.

No longer can Ponting chuck the ball to Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne, nor can he rely on the prodigious talent of Adam Gilchrist to bludgeon his side out of trouble. Faith had been invested in Mitchell Johnson and Phillip Hughes, while more was expected of Michael Hussey in the middle order. This is not the first time that Ponting's captaincy has been tested to the limit. The home defeat by South Africa earlier this year finally ended Australia's dominance at the top of Test cricket.

A period of introspection followed amid a torrent of criticism which only served to make Ponting even stronger and more determined - a fact illustrated by his side's ability to bounce back almost immediately. The team's performance in winning 2-1 in South Africa against the side who had usurped them at the top of the rankings, spoke volumes for Ponting's capacity to reinvigorate his players. Now, amid the gloom of the English summer, he must do the same once again. What is certain is that Australia are very much still in this series, despite the failure of their key players to reach top form.

Johnson's personal problems, Hughes's failure to adapt to the English challenge and injuries to key players have cast a cloud on Australia's tour. Those factors must be cast aside with a new positive approach which can allow the green and gold to shine brightly once again. With a draw looking the most likely outcome in this monsoon- affected Test match, Ponting's eyes will now be on Headingley and the final clash at the Oval.

Ponting is a fighter and a winner. As captain and as the country's all-time leading run-scorer, he has the ability to bring the winning mentality back to this Australia side. They may not possess the great players of the past but in the likes of Ponting, Michael Clarke and the under-performing Hussey, they have men who can turn the series in their favour. It is time for Australia to leave their glorious past behind and instead forge a new legacy.

The success of years gone by should not be a burden but rather an inspiration to the current crop. Now, with their backs against the wall and the critics circling, it is time for this team to write their own chapter in Australia's proud history. sports@thenational.ae