LONDON (AP) — Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting agreed to a second stint in English county cricket by signing a two-month contract with Surrey on Thursday, adding another illustrious name to the team's batting lineup.
Ponting, test cricket's second-highest run scorer, will play for Surrey in all formats throughout June and July, providing cover for Graeme Smith while the South Africa skipper plays in the ICC Champions trophy this summer.
It means Ponting will be in England at the same time as Australia contests the Ashes series against England. "It will be a very strange experience," said Ponting, who led Australia in its past two tours of England. "At some stages, only a few hundred miles, or a couple of hours, away there will be a test match going on between Australia and England and I won't be a part of it.
"I've had an opportunity to think through those scenarios since I've been retired from international cricket. I think just to be in the country while a series like that is happening will be a lot of fun."
The opportunities for Ponting, Smith and Kevin Pietersen — Surrey's other top batsman — to play in the same lineup will be few and far between owing to international commitments this summer, but they could turn out together on July 5 in a Twenty20 match against Middlesex.
"Smith and now Ponting, joining us at Surrey this season.. Wowza!! Hope I get to bat with both of them.. (hash)fireworks," Pietersen said in a Twitter post. Smith is expected to be involved with South Africa in the Champions Trophy, which takes place in England and Wales from June 6-23. Pietersen should also be playing in that tournament, as well as the Ashes series that begins with the first test in Nottingham from July 10.
Ponting, whose previous experience of English county cricket was in 2004 with Somerset, has returned to play for state side Tasmania in Australia and scored an unbeaten 200 in his most recent match. He is also due to play for Mumbai Indians in the upcoming Indian Premier League.
"In Ricky Ponting, we have signed one of the greatest batsmen of the modern era," Surrey team director Chris Adams said. "This year, our young batsmen will enjoy a unique opportunity to learn from not just one but two of the greatest international players of the modern age."
Ponting scored 13,378 runs in 168 tests at an average of 51.85. In his brief spell at Somerset, he averaged 99 from both three Championship matches and four one-day games.