Ricky Ponting is going to England after all. The former Australian captain's Test career could not stretch as far as this year's Ashes tour but he will be a lot closer to Michael Clarke's squad than expected after signing a short-term county deal with Surrey.
The 38-year-old, who played briefly for Somerset in 2004, will join Surrey in June and July as a high-profile stand-in for South Africa captain Graeme Smith, who will be occupied in England at the ICC Champions Trophy.
Ponting will remain with the county, whose base is the Oval, while the Ashes series begins at Trent Bridge on July 10.
"It will be very strange to know that a few hours away there will be an Ashes Test going on and I won't be part of it," said Ponting, who led Australia on England tours in 2005 and 2009.
"But I've had a chance to think about all that over the last three or four months and just to be in the country while a series like that is happening will be a lot of fun.
"I thought my days of playing in England might have been over after I knew I wasn't going to be on the Ashes tour this year.
"I've probably got a few too many bad memories from the Kia Oval because of Ashes series gone by so I hope I can walk away with some better ones this time."
Ponting and Smith could play alongside each other during the domestic Twenty20 competition but only the one international player is permitted in each county side in the first-class Championship.
The Tasmanian retired from Test cricket after Australia's defeat to South Africa in the third Test in Perth in December.
"I'm exceptionally excited to be back in England," Ponting told Surrey TV. "I've only had one chance to play in county cricket before now, and I've always said I wanted to come back. I'm thankful that I'll get that chance with Surrey."