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Australia want to beat full-strength England: Ponting

MELBOURNE: Australia captain Ricky Ponting says he wants all England's leading players to be fit for the Ashes series starting later this year.

England have been decimated by injuries since beating Australia last year for the first time since 1987, with captain Michael Vaughan, all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and fast bowler Simon Jones among players suffering serious problems.

"We want to play against the best England team that we can," Ponting told reporters.

Ponting said he hoped the likes of Flintoff, Vaughan and Jones all regained their fitness in time for the five-match series starting in Brisbane on Nov. 23.

"It's a long time to get over any sort of injury. I'm pretty sure they'll want all those three guys out here if they can get them here, so that's the way I'm looking at it."

Australia have won 11 of their last 12 tests since losing the Ashes for the first time in 18 years.

England, meanwhile, have not won a series since their memorable triumph over the Australians and have been dogged by injuries, losing 2-1 in Pakistan before sharing series in India and at home to Sri Lanka.

"We feel that we've got things really going in the right direction at the moment," Ponting said. "If you look at what they've been doing you'd probably say they'd be the opposite.

"But as we all know an Ashes series will bring the best out in both teams." Ponting said it would be difficult to ignore the pressure on Australia to regain the Ashes on home soil, with tickets for the series selling at record-breaking pace when they were released last month.

"The more sometimes you build things up the harder it can be to perform," he said at the launch of the TV coverage for the series.

"We'll make sure that we're not treating it any differently or any more serious than any other series we've played in." He disagreed with the view that players from the two sides were too friendly during the 2-1 defeat in England, with national selector Merv Hughes among those calling for a tougher approach.

"It's important you play the game with a smile on your face. We play our best when we are hard-nosed and aggressive and that's the way we have to approach it again.

"People talk about (Shane) Warne and (Kevin) Pietersen (being friendly) but Warnie was trying as hard as anybody and was as keen as anyone to get Pietersen out early on."



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