Ponting identifies England's possible new No.3
Injury to Ollie Pope may have prompted England to push the promising Harry Brook and later, the edgy Moeen Ali to No.3 for the Headingley Ashes 2023 Test, but Ricky Ponting believes those will be shortlived punts the moment the hosts step on the field for the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
Ponting reckons England under Ben Stokes are in for a move that would surprise quite a few when the battles for supremacy takes centre stage in Manchester from July 19, wherein the skipper and game-changer willow holder could promote himself to one-down and take on the Australian attack.
The left-field suggestion was made in wake of two rearguard knocks played by the England allrounder at Lord's and Leeds, with the latter managing to turn the hosts' fortunes and providing them a comeback win. Ponting sees Stokes continuing his dominating streak to a bigger impact if he bats No.3.
The Australian batting legend says it would make technical and tactical sense, too, if Stokes opted to take the role at No.3 since he is an allround upgrade with the bat to Moeen against pace and bounce with which the visitors have caused the vulnerable leftie huge trouble.
Ponting suggests Stokes at No.3 for Old Trafford Test
Speaking on the ICC Review show for the much-anticipated Manchester Test starting in four days' time with Ashes 2023 standing 2-1 in Australia's favour, Ponting suggested Ben Stokes to consider bringing himself up the order and make use of his great form and belligerence to ruffle the Aussie feathers earlier on in the Test match.
"I actually thought that Ben Stokes might have batted himself at number three at Headingley when I realised that Pope was out and Moeen and Woakes came back in," Ponting said. "To me he's got the technique to survive at the top and Moeen hasn’t. We saw that in the second innings."
Without sounding critical, Ponting insisted Brook is best served playing the role of a game-changer and aggressor in the middle-order, as he did to help England progress to victory at Headingley after a quick return to No.5 with a priceless 75 in the second-innings run-chase.
"I'm not sure if Harry Brook is ever going to be a top-order Test match batsman. I think he's always going to be a four, five or six type batter with the way that he plays."
"I thought the opportunity was there for Ben because a lot of the time with Stokes and, you know this is no knock on him whatsoever as he's a terrific player, but a lot of the time he's got to come in and play a Mr Fix-It role when it's almost like a damage control sort of role where I've always felt that if he batted at No.3 then he could sort of stop some of that damage with the technique that he's got," Ponting added, insisting that since Stokes is hardly bowling, he will only be fresh for rigorous No.3 duties.