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August 5, 2009

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Ponting, Strauss dwell on positives after Australia forces a draw in test

CAPTAINS Ricky Ponting and Andrew Strauss were focusing on the positives taken from a fluctuating third test which ended in a draw in Birmingham on Monday.

Australia started and ended the match strongly but England dominated the middle section and it will go into the fourth match of the series 1-0 ahead.

"We've done most things pretty well," Ponting told a news conference. "We've got off to a great start on the first day and then we came up against a swinging ball which would have made it hard to bat for any team in the world.

"We then bowled well with the swinging ball ourselves and England batted positively to get into a good position but I thought our batsmen were excellent today."

Strauss said there was a sense of disappointment for England.

"It is a slight let-down because we got to the ground this morning confident we might be able to force a result," he said. "But the conditions didn't help us as much as we hoped and, in fairness, the Australians batted well."

Strauss dropped a very difficult catch off Michael Clarke when he had made 38 and the right-hander went on to complete an unbeaten century. "When I dropped the catch it was last-throw-of-the-dice time," he said. "It may have given us a chance but I'm not sure."

Strauss said the swing bowling of Graham Onions and James Anderson on the second day had been outstanding.

"The way we bowled in their first innings when the ball was swinging around was top rate," he said. "We have a huge number of positives to take out of the game. For three days we were on top of the Australians again."

Ponting played down suggestions that the match was marred by verbal confrontations between opposing players.

"There was nothing too untoward," he said. "It was just good intense test match cricket."

Ponting said Australia was not concerned about trailing in a series, something which it has not experienced many times in recent years.

"We don't mind being in this position," he said. "Generally in adversity we play our best cricket."

Clarke and Marcus North shared a partnership of 185 and Shane Watson and Michael Hussey also made patient half-centuries in a total of 375 for five for the Australians.

"We knew it would be hard but I thought the North-Clarke partnership was something special," Ponting said. "They batted beautifully and controlled the game for us."

The England attack struggled for inspiration and the hosts' best moment was a spectacular one-handed diving catch by Anderson to dismiss North for 96.

Twisting ankle

They also had a scare when allrounder Andrew Flintoff tumbled to the ground after twisting his ankle in his delivery side but he dusted himself down and returned to the attack.

"The ball wasn't swinging, we tried a few options but it just wasn't to be today unfortunately," Strauss said. "We grabbed the initiative in the match but unfortunately we couldn't make the most of it today."

Meanwhile, England has included Flintoff in its squad for the fourth test on Friday in the hope that the key allrounder is fit to face Australia in what could be the series decider.

England picked 14 players, one more than for the drawn third test, with pace bowler Steve Harmison set to replace Flintoff if he succumbs to his troublesome ankle injury.

Flintoff was arguably the key player in the second-test win that put England 1-0 up but failed to take a wicket in the last match. England dropped Monty Panesar from the squad and added batsman Jonathan Trott and Ryan Sidebottom.

The fitness of Australian fast bowler Brett Lee will be assessed over the next three days. Lee sustained a rib muscle injury a month ago in Australia's final warm-up match before the Ashes series. The problem has kept him out of the first three tests.


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