LEEDS: Australia captain Ricky Ponting insisted his team`s three-wicket defeat by Pakistan in the second Test would be irrelevant come the start of their bid to regain the Ashes.
British newspapers were unable to contain themselves after Australia were bowled out for just 88 - their lowest total in 26 years - on the first day, with the tabloid Daily Mail crowing: "Any chance we can play you for the Ashes NOW, Ricky?".
But England`s defence of the Ashes in Australia - where they haven`t won a Test series since 1986 - does not start for several months.
And with England about to play an in-form Pakistan in a four-Test series, much could have changed by the time they face arch-rivals Australia in Brisbane on November 25.
"I don`t think it will do too much to dent our confidence," said Ponting after a fourth day loss on Saturday ended Australia`s run of 13 straight Test wins over Pakistan -- a record sequence for one country against another.
"Late November is a long way away. We`re not even focusing on the Ashes just yet. A loss quite often just highlights some of the things you`re not doing well.
"That`s all this week will do for us."
Before they face England, Australia travel to India for a two-Test series in October and Ponting said: "If you were trying to set down your perfect preparation for an Ashes series, it probably wouldn`t be playing two Test matches in India.
"But you don`t live in an ideal world. That`s the way international cricket is these days. We`ll go there and play the best cricket we possibly can."
At Headingley, as was even the case against during a 150-run first Test win at Lord`s, Australia`s batsmen struggled against the swinging ball, with Pakistan`s pacemen exploiting the overcast conditions superbly.
Nevertheless, Australia almost became the first side in over a century to win a Test after being dismissed for under a hundred in the first innings, with Pakistan losing seven wickets on the way to a victory target of 180.
"I felt there was a really good opportunity for us to win the Test," said Ponting, who while making 66 in Australia`s much-improved second innings 349 became only the second batsman, after India`s Sachin Tendulkar, to have scored 12,000 Test runs.
"We did that to a certain degree -- 180 is a tricky sort of total to chase. "But we have been chasing our tails since the end of the first day."
Meanwhile, he forecast Mohammad Asif - compared to Australia great Glenn McGrath by Pakistan captain Salman Butt - would pose problems for England.
"You look at the way Asif bowls, he`s perfectly suited to English conditions. He swings the ball both ways and is a genuine seamer.
"If Pakistan bowl as well as they bowled in the two Tests against us, I`m sure they will trouble the English batsmen."
However, Ponting added: "I think England will win. I think they`re a more complete team than Pakistan."
Ponting will be 38 by the time Australia are in England for the 2013 Ashes. Asked if he`d now made his last Test appearance in England, Ponting replied: "I honestly don`t know. It`s all going to be down to how well I play.
"If I get back here in a couple of years time then so be it. But if I`m not good enough, then there`s nothing I can do about that."
BDST: 1545hrs, July 25, 2010