Can the Ben Stokes era England have it all? Ricky Ponting isn’t so sure.
The former Australia captain revealed he is a huge fan of England’s approach since leadership duo Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes took charge.
But the ICC Hall of Famer also told the world’s media that England should be wary of the pitfalls that could come from preparing conditions to suit their ultra-attacking batting philosophy.
Ponting, who was speaking during the ICC World Test Championship Final at The Oval on Friday, believes England’s bowlers could come a cropper if the boundaries are brought in and pitches are prepared to the “fast and flat” specification that Stokes mentioned earlier in the English summer.
“It's been refreshing to see England’s win-at-all-costs mentality, not caring about losing a game – or not putting that ahead of trying to win a game,” Ponting said. “For that fact, I can't wait for the Ashes to start.
“I'm really intrigued to see what conditions England want to play that style of cricket. Because if they want the flatter wickets with the smaller boundaries, it might just backfire on their bowling group. That's the biggest thing for me.”
The English trio of James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad are at their most dangerous when the ball is moving around.
And should they not have as much assistance, Ponting feels that Australia’s strong batting line-up have the potential to tuck in.
“Their batters will want flatter wickets and their bowlers will want the other," Ponting added.
“Broad, Anderson and Robinson will want pitches that will offer them something. If they don't have those wickets for their bowling attack, we'll see how they go against the Aussie batters.
“We've got a pretty good idea of what both teams are going to look like. We know the way England are going to play, and I don’t think Australia are going to deviate from the way they've played over the last two years because it's held them in great stead all around the world.
“It's the conditions that I can't wait to see.”
England’s revival in Test cricket under Stokes and McCullum has seen them win home series against New Zealand and South Africa as well as Tests against India and Ireland in the past year.
Yet Australian star Steve Smith is among those to have questioned whether England’s new uber-aggressive approach will work against arguably the best bowling attack in world cricket.
And while Ponting isn’t sure whether it will work, he is absolutely certain that England will stick to their guns.
“I don't think it's impossible, but I think they'll definitely try. The Australian attack have to be ready for it," Ponting added.
“I've got a few thoughts on what I'd be doing if I was an Australian fast bowler, if I was talking to the Australian fast bowlers about how to bowl to the England batsmen.
“I think the way they've played this way for the last couple of years is with this series in mind – they're trying to find a brand of cricket they can play that can win them an Ashes series.”
What the Australian attack will look like is still not completely clear, with Josh Hazlewood’s fitness in doubt after he missed the World Test Championship Final due to injury.
Fellow pacer Scott Boland replaced Hazlewood in the XI for the match against India, and excelled in the English conditions.
But Ponting still feels it’ll be Hazlewood who gets the nod for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
“When you look at Scott Boland and the way he is playing, it's a pretty compelling argument to have him in the starting line-up for the first (Ashes) Test," Ponting said.
“Looking ahead though, with five Test matches in six weeks, I don’t think we can expect either bowling group get through all of those. So I think both teams are going to have to rest a quick or two through the series.
“If Hazlewood is fit and you're 100 percent convinced he's right to get through this game, then I think he'll start. But if he doesn't, I think they've got a pretty good back-up in Boland.”
One bowler who might manage to play all six Tests in this Australian tour is skipper Pat Cummins, who had an up-and-down day during Friday’s play at The Oval.
The Aussie captain bowled beautifully and aggressively, but saw two decent chances dropped off his bowling and had another wicket ruled out for over-stepping as he showed signs of rustiness after a lengthy lay-off.
And Ponting says the key to Cummins making it through the English summer is the use of all-rounder Cameron Green to take up some of the slack.
“In series gone by where there hasn’t' been that world class all-rounder to throw the ball to for 15 overs an innings, then it would have been less likely," Ponting said.
“But I think if Pat manages himself well enough, with Green there to help out, I think the captain can get through.”
The first Ashes Test begins on 16 June at Edgbaston, with Australia potentially facing a four-day turnaround after the conclusion of the World Test Championship Final.