Ashes series would be the closest in decades: Ponting

Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australian captain Ricky Ponting said he hoped the upcoming Ashes series would be the closest in decades after recent clashes with England failed to meet expectations.

Arriving back in Australia after crushing New Zealand in both the One-day and Test series, Ponting said a resurgent England would ensure a close Ashes contest this northern summer.

"We've said that about the Ashes before and it hasn't been," Ponting said on Wednesday. "But I think this England side have a different feel to them."

"If you watch they way they play and how they've gone about their cricket, they have a bit of a winning habit and winning culture which they haven't had for a while."

England have not won the Ashes since 1987 and are ranked at number two in the latest Interantional Cricket Council Test rankings, behind runaway leaders Australia.

Ponting said his team's ranking reflected its consistent form over an extended period.

The Australian captain refused to enter the debate on whether Test pace discard Brett Lee should defy Australian selectors by accepting an offer to play English County cricket in a bid to sharpen his fitness and claim an Ashes spot.

"It's a decision that has to be made by the individual and what they think is best for their game," Ponting said.

Lee's manager Neil Maxwell appeared to rule out a County cricket stint, saying the paceman was already in good physical shape, despite his lack of cricket recently.

"It's unlikely at this stage," Maxwell told reporters. "He's got pretty good fitness levels and (Australia) have got a training camp in May, so he'll maintain fitness."

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