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Ponting for brief Somerset stint

London: Ricky Ponting, Australian World Cup-winning captain, will turn out for Somerset in the County Championships in 2004.

The Aussie will only be available from mid-July to the end of August but the club believes he can excite the interest of spectators.

“We hope he will sprinkle a bit of magic down here at Taunton,” said chief executive Peter Anderson.

“We were looking to sign a high-profile player and he’s obviously one of the leading batsmen in the world.”

Ponting’s signing comes as Somerset look to freshen up their squad following a disappointing 2003 campaign, which saw them finish seventh in Division II championship and next to bottom in the National League.

His recruitment is a throwback to the club’s glory days of the late 1970s and early 1980s when Viv Richards pulled in the crowds at the County ground.

Ponting has scored 4,856 runs in 69 Tests at an average of 51 and 6,325 in ODIs.

He took over the one-day captaincy from Steve Waugh last year — Waugh had a spell with Somerset in 1988 — and has won 37 of his 47 matches so far.

“Taunton’s reputation as a good batting track would probably be a factor that would make him decide to come here,” Anderson added.

Ponting will share one overseas player slot with fellow Tasmanian Jamie Cox, who will take over when he has international commitments.

No trial for leggie

Victoria coach David Hookes said on Friday, Shane Warne would walk straight into his Australian state side once his 12-month drug ban lapses .

Australia’s leading Test wicket-taker’s 12-month ban for taking a banned diuretic will end on February 10 next year and Hookes knows Warne’s return to the game will invoke international attention.

When asked if such a speedy return was possible, Hookes said at a team function: “Not for mortals like us, but Shane’s not a mortal.”

“It’s a long way off. It’s going to be a really complex issue and it’s going to be a real focus for cricket, and a focus worldwide, for the Australian team and us.

“He’s the best player in the world in his craft so why wouldn’t you pick him'”

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