Melbourne:Suspicious of an England design in choosing Cardiff for first Test of the Ashes, Australia is sending a spy to the virgin venue to check on the state of pitch there.
Ponting believes Cardiff, which has never hosted a Test, has been deliberately chosen ahead of traditional grounds like Old Trafford and Trent Bridge because England want maximum advantage out of the "dry" pitch knowing that Australia lack a front-line spinner.
"Historically, Cardiff has been one wicket around the country that has spun (in county cricket). It's been one of the driest wickets in England. They've probably got a bigger advantage there than anywhere else in the country.
"They know that we haven't got (Shane) Warne any more. They know that spin side of Australian cricket at the moment is probably not what it used to be," Ponting said.
"We've been talking about trying to send someone down to Cardiff this week so we can have a look at what the wicket preparation looks like. That way we can get it into our own minds a little bit earlier as to what to expect," he was quoted as saying by 'The Australian'. Australia's confusion has been compounded by the contradictory reports about how the new strip will play in the first Test, beginning on July 8.
"Since we've been here we've heard lots of stories about how dry it's going to be and how much it's going to spin. There was even talk a month ago about the Test not going ahead there because of problems with the pitch," Ponting said. Ponting's concerns were magnified after he spoke to umpire George Sharp, who officiated in Australia's opening tour match in Hove and also umpired an early season one-day county match between Essex and Glamorgan in Cardiff on May 12.
In that county match, Pakistani leg-spinner Danish Kaneria claimed 4-16 from 10 overs for Essex to rout home team Glamorgan. "George Sharp said that Kaneria was unplayable. He was turning them square," Ponting said. So concerned was the England and Wales Cricket Board about the state of the pitch that a disciplinary committee penalised Glamorgan for the state of the wicket. However, the county's cricket manager, Matthew Maynard, said it was an aberration, with the new groundsmen letting the pitch dry out too quickly.