Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting believes that England must keep Josh Tongue in the playing XI for the third Test at the expense of senior pacer Jimmy Anderson, who "looked like the most disappointing bowler" for the hosts so far in the series, in order to overturn their 2-0 series deficit in the ongoing Ashes 2023.
The 40-year-old pacer picked up only three wickets in the first two Tests and surprisingly let go of two catches while Tongue claimed five wickets during the second Test match after being named Moeen Ali’s replacement.
Tongue removed both Australia openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja in the first innings, and Steve Smith twice.
To rectify their campaign, and with the little rest in between matches, Ponting feels Tongue must once again be included, leading the hosts to further reshuffles.
"From what I saw last week, I thought he was the standard of their fast bowlers. (Stuart) Broad got the wickets in the second innings, but Tongue got early breakthroughs," Ponting said on the latest episode of The ICC Review.
Like Smith, Tongue also removed a resurgent Warner a second time in the match, having attacked the stumps through bowled and lbw dismissals against the left-hander.
"They were both very similar dismissals from around the wicket with the ball coming back in. I think that is something that they need to consider as well," Ponting noted.
The hosts were forced to resort to the part-time off-breaks of Joe Root at Lord’s after Moeen broke down with a spinning finger injury at Edgbaston. While the former skipper admits questions still linger around Moeen's fitness and Rehan Ahmed's readiness to face the rigours of Ashes cricket, should a spinner come in, Ponting believes it should be Anderson to make way.
"He (Anderson) looked like the most disappointing bowler for England so far. What you expect from James Anderson is when he's got that new ball in his hand, he's taking early wickets, he's moving the ball, and he's not going for any runs. We haven't seen that in the series so far.
And that's not a direct criticism of Anderson. He's been one of the all-time greats of the game, his longevity and his wall-timeking ability, but if I was looking at the bowlers I saw last week, I think he's the one that's looked to have the least amount of penetration," said Ponting.
"(Ollie) Robinson's had less penetration, but he's probably actually bowled a bit better. He's been in control of the game more than Anderson has. They've still got a few questions there with Moeen. Do they risk going into the game again and having the same (injury) happen?
I doubt that he would have bowled enough between the end of Edgbaston and the start of Headingley for them to be 100 percent convinced that he's going to be physically right to bowl a lot of overs in a Test match. It could get down to the stage where they're bowling last at Headingley and they might need someone like him to bowl 25 or 30 overs in an innings," he added.
The third Test starts on July 6 at Headingley, where England will look to avenge their first two losses as they strive to keep their Ashes hopes alive.