Melbourne:Australian captain Ricky Ponting feels that spin wizard Shane Warne is bowling as well as ever but doesn't believe the leg-spin king is plotting a Test comeback for next year's Ashes.
Warne's fabulous return in the Indian Premier League - 14 wickets at 18.78 - has sparked a frenzy of interest as to whether he could make an incredible 2009 Ashes return in his favourite hunting ground England.
However, Ponting is virtually certain Australia has seen the last of Warne, who has even retired from playing county cricket for Hampshire.
The Test skipper has endorsed Stuart MacGill, fresh from taking 4/79 and 3/50 in a tour match against a Jamaican XI in the West Indies, as Australia's probable 2009 Ashes spinner. Despite MacGill's injury history - and his penchant for controversy - Ponting has given the 37-year-old the green light to continue through to the Ashes.
"If his body stays right there is no doubt that he is the best wicket-taking spinner in Australia," Ponting was quoted as saying by The Australian Tuesday. "So if he keeps himself fit and has the desire and passion to keep playing cricket then I'm pretty sure he would be good enough to get the Ashes' job done."
"Full credit to him. He looks a lot fitter and has obviously lost a lot of weight," Ponting said. "Last year he really battled but he is moving around a lot better now."
Whispers of a potential international comeback for Warne will keep bubbling, but it appears the legspin great has almost certainly donned the baggy green cap for the last time.
However a Warne comeback for the Ashes cannot be completely ruled out given his love affair with England and the fact that MacGill's body could fail him again.
One thing is for sure, Warne has not lost his ability to knock over the world's best players and looks as if he could return to Test cricket without missing a beat.
But Ponting doesn't expect to have Warne in his Ashes weaponry. "He has never mentioned anything to me about coming back for the Ashes and I don't think that will happen," Ponting said.
"We all knew when he retired it wasn't anything to do with his bowling, we knew he could keep bowling well for a number of years if he wanted to."
Warne's IPL stint has reinforced that he would have been a great Australian captain. His leadership of the Rajasthan Royals, a team short of starpower, has been superb and his captaincy is largely the reason they are at the top of the IPL ladder.
Just 16 months after retiring from Test cricket, Warne last night dramatically opened the door for a comeback.
Australia's greatest leg-spinner said that if circumstances were right, he would consider returning against arch-enemy England in next year's Ashes series.
"If Australia really needed me and there was no one else around, and Ricky thought I could do the job, you would weigh up the options," said Warne, who will turn 40 during the Ashes series.
Warne has worked miracles leading the Rajasthan Royals to the top of the Indian Premier League table, mesmerising batsmen with the leg-spin that collected 708 wickets in 145 Tests.
Warne, who retired from Test cricket after Australia won the Ashes in January 2007, said he would return should injury again cut down Stuart MacGill.
"If Stuey MacGill fell over and broke his leg, and there were no other spinners around, and Ricky came out and said, 'Mate, can you please help us out for this one-off tour? We need you', that is something I would weigh up," he said.