Ponting: Pressure on England
Ricky Ponting has questioned England's ability to adapt to Australian conditions ahead of this winter's Ashes.
Last Updated: 23/08/10 12:46pm
Australia captain Ricky Ponting has warned England they will be under pressure from ball one of the Ashes.
England defend the urn Down Under this winter - starting in Brisbane on November 25 - looking to improve on an awful recent record in Australia.
They were whitewashed 5-0 on their previous tour in 2006-07 but regained the Ashes on home soil last year, prevailing 2-1 in a closely-fought series.
Ponting remains unconvinced that England will be able to continue their good recent form - six Test wins out of seven - in Australian conditions.
"If you look back to the start of the last Ashes here in Australia, their wheels fell off really quickly," Ponting told Sky Sports News.
"They were the fancied team last time as well and are going to come in again in a similar boat.
"We'll see how they handle it. They didn't handle it last time and there's no doubt there'll be more pressure on them in this series than probably ever before.
"I'm confident that our guys can hold their nerve and mettle through that - we'll see what England can do."
Ponting has nevertheless been impressed by England's improvement under the coach-captain axis of Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss.
But he also points out that Australia have been in unstoppable Test form since surrendering the Ashes.
"England have played well for while now," noted the Tasmanian.
"They seem to be a lot more together as a group than ever before and, the fact is, they are winning games and keeping a similar group of players together.
"It is amazing what winning a few games does for your confidence around the group.
"They are a pretty settled unit, as are we. Our last 12 months have been outstanding - I think we've won eight of the 10 Tests played with one draw and one loss.
"That's a great record and will stack up against any record of any team for the last 12 months.
"I'm happy with where we are and the way we have come along and improved since the end of the last Ashes series.
"The guys that were inexperienced last time around are not any more.
"We are a lot more experienced and are a harder group of players than before - and I expect a lot better performances through the (Australian) summer."
Ponting's own future has come under scrutiny due to a relative dip in form during the last year.
The 35-year-old, who has skippered Australia's Test side since Steve Waugh retired in January 2004, is averaging 40 since the end of the 2009 Ashes series - well down on a career mark of almost 55.
But his deputy Michael Clarke does not think Ponting is contemplating retirement any time soon.
"I don't think it will be Ricky's last series," said Clarke.
"I saw in England the way he was training and the way he was playing - he's still got a lot of time left in him.
"He has been a huge part of Australian cricket for a long time.
"I know he's really keen, really excited for this summer - as we all are. All the boys are looking forward to what lies ahead."