Ponting has toured England thrice before on Ashes tours and has made a Test hundred each time. His Test batting average in England - 42.6 is significantly lower than his 56.2 career average. The Australian batting line up for the first Test is likely to read
Philip Hughes, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew McDonald/Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Nathan Hauritz, Stuart Clark
If Lee is fit, i suspect they will go with Lee first up. Peter Siddle has made an impressive beginning to his Test career (compare Siddle's career to say Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma, and he's head and shoulder's above them in terms of product). Peter Roebuck points out that Australia have selected pragmatically. They have simply packed the squad with the best available players with some basic understanding of team balance, and left the details for the tour managers to sort out. Australia's squad comprises of 6 batsmen, 2 wicketkeepers, 2 all rounders, 1 spinner and 5 fast bowlers. Lack of spin will be a problem for Australia. This Australian side resembles a lot of South African sides from recent years both in make up and in terms of talent. South Africa have not lost a series in England in this decade.
I remain puzzled by the general gloating emanating out of England, doubtlessly magnified by Australia's early exit from the T20 World Cup, but amazingly ignorant of England getting hammered by the Netherlands. As i write this England have been reduced to 111 all out by the South Africans. I wonder what will be worse, getting eliminated quickly against good opposition in a context well-understood to be something of a lottery, or stumbling along painfully through a series of sub-par performances after having qualified simply despite a fairly ignominous (in terms of reputations anyways) stumble. Andrew Flintoff has returned for Lancashire against Durham in the County Championship. Im so glad England had to good sense to keep Flintoff out of the T20 circus. As it happens, Flintoff got in a decent 12 overs in the day (as against a pointless 4 in the T20, where no batsman would need to care about what he was bowling anyways), and some good practice.
Flintoff is the one man who could turn the Ashes England's way. Australia will have to find a way to keep him in check - keeping him out with the ball, and keep him from blossoming with the bat.
By contrast, Australia have two distinct all rounder options, to accompany Mitchell Johnson. Andrew McDonald is the most defensive option - he's mainly a holding bowler and a watchful lower-middle order batsman. Shane Watson is the more explosive man. Watson was Australia's most impressive bowler in India last year. Who they pick will indicate what they are thinking.
It should be a fascinating series.