Ponting predicts playing XIs for final Ashes Test
Ponting's former side arrives in the nation's capital holding on to a slender 2-1 series lead and need to avoid defeat at the iconic London venue to become just the second Australian side this century to win an Ashes series on England soil.
The fitness of a host of key players will be monitored prior to the start of the Test on Thursday and will determine the make-up of both sides and Ponting thinks changes will likely be kept to a minimum.
Unlucky Murphy likely to earn recall
Ponting knows Australia left Todd Murphy out of their side for the fourth Test in Manchester to strengthen their already strong batting line-up, but expects to see the inexperienced spinner earn his place back in the XI with conditions in London likely to require a specialist slow bowler.
"Australia have got a real question to ask themselves, what they do going into the last Test match," Ponting told host Sanjana Ganesan on The ICC Review.
"I've got a feeling that they'll want to bring Murphy in for the last Test. The Oval generally does spin a little bit more, and already I think the forecast for this week in London looks better than last week, so I wouldn't be surprised if Murphy comes back in.
"I don't think there'll be any other changes to be honest. David Warner looked good again in the first innings of - well actually in both innings of the game at Manchester. Unfortunately he probably squandered a couple of starts again, but he's looked good. I think they'll stick with him at the top there for the last Test match of the series.
“If Murphy comes in, then they've got a really big decision to make. All the fast bowlers are physically fine, which they should be. They've had an extra couple of days off, really, after two washed out days in Manchester. I think if they're all okay, I think they'll go on and get and play one more Test match. So the decision will come down to Murphy and Green again.
“I think Mitchell Marsh's form is irresistible. You can't leave him out. He's not put a foot wrong yet with the bat. Even his second innings in Manchester, there's probably not been a lot spoken about that. But I thought the maturity he showed there and the willingness to be able to change his game a fraction for what the team needed I think says a lot about him as a cricketer. So, I think, honestly feel that if Murphy comes back in, it'll probably have to be Green that goes out."
Ponting's predicted Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (c), Todd Murphy, Josh Hazlewood.
Anderson’s form dip leaves England with selection dilemma
Ponting has been a long-time admirer of James Anderson, but knows the veteran pacer has been well below his best this series with just four wickets from three matches.
The fact that the impressive Josh Tongue and burly pacer Ollie Robinson missed selection for the Manchester Test and should be relatively fresh heading to The Oval means Ponting is predicting Anderson to miss out on selection.
"He has lacked penetration right through the series, James Anderson so it's going to be a really interesting decision, I think, from England now going into this last Test," Ponting noted.
"He might have picked up wickets the other day…and they were tail-end wickets. And he got given the new ball on both occasions. So he got everything that he would have wanted as far as when to bowl and who to bowl at. And he just hasn't had the penetration that you've expected from Anderson through such an amazing career.
"So I must admit, I'd be very surprised if they do go ahead and play him at The Oval. If they do, you talk about this selection of Manchester being the sentimental one. I think now if they pick him at the Oval, that will be more sentimental than anything.
“Because what I saw with Tongue at Lord’s…he was the pick of their bowlers in that Lord's game and then he's gone straight back out. So I'd be very surprised if Anderson actually plays this last Test."
Ponting's predicted England XI: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad, Josh Tongue.
Plenty to play for at The Oval
While Australia already know they have retained the urn, Ponting believes Pat Cummins and his charges will not be fully satisfied unless they can break a 22-year drought and win an Ashes series in England for the first time since 2001.
"Everyone is talking already about how Australia have retained the Ashes. Well, they won't be happy with that. Australia, they want to win the Ashes," Ponting said.
"Australia haven't won the Ashes in England since 2001, so that means there's no one in this current team that's actually won a series in England.
"So there's plenty of motivation there for the Australians forward and also if England are able to win at the Oval and it's 2-2 then their complaining about the weather at Manchester has a bit more of a story to it.
"Because then they could have actually gone on and won the series if that's the case. But let's wait and see, plenty to play for. And I'm sure that although the fans and everyone associated with the Ashes wanted it dearly to go to The Oval at 2-2, I don't think there's going to be much difference going there 2-1."
Who wins the fifth Test?
While Ponting is aware England were the superior team for the majority of the Manchester Test, he wonders whether they can replicate that effort in London and is expecting Australia to perform better back at the same ground they won the ICC World Test Championship Final against India last month.
"England has the momentum from the last game, but can they continue on with that momentum?" Ponting asked.
"Or did they put so much into that game last week, you know, physically and mentally? Because that was the challenge that they had. They had to go out and play a certain way with all sorts of freedom and put absolutely everything into the game. And the disappointment of not getting a chance to win, does that actually make it easier or harder for them? It's been so hard to predict from the start.
"When I arrived, I thought this series would be so close and I had Australia just edging England 3-2.
"We obviously can't keep that result now. But I'm not going to say I think England will win. I think Australia, even though most people probably suggest that they think England have had the better of the series, I don't necessarily agree with that.
"And I think with Australia not having been at their best, (Steve) Smith and (Marnus) Labuschagne probably haven't had the output that they thought they might have. And if they actually do come good at The Oval, then I think Australia will be hard to beat again."