RICKY Ponting has challenged his batting protege Alex Doolan to force his way into Ashes contention with another stellar Sheffield Shield showing.
The former Test captain believes his fellow NTCA product still has time to reinforce his case for selection ahead of the November 21 series opener in Brisbane.
``There's every opportunity for that,'' Ponting said.
``I don't think there are too many places that are cemented right now in the batting order for the first Test.
``Everyone's going to have their fair share of Shield matches leading into the Brisbane Test match, and I think the guys that are in the best form and scoring the most runs will get the nod.
``I played a lot with Doolan last year and he's a class player.
``He elevated his game to a new level last year, and hopefully he can start the season the same way this year.''
Doolan made the perfect start before a ball has been bowled in this year's Shield when he was named yesterday as vice-captain of the Tasmanian team for the first match against New South Wales next week, having filled the same role in the RYOBI Cup.
Ponting has long described the 27-year-old as ``a Test batsman in waiting'', telling The Examiner last year that he was ``as good as anyone in the country'' in the No. 3 role.
``He's got class, time, a simple technique, and is a good striker of the ball. He keeps things simple,'' Ponting said.
``When I've batted with him, you can just see he's got that little bit of time on his side. He never seems rushed, and that's always a sign of a good player.''
Australia's all-time leading run-scorer made Doolan a personal project last season, and their efforts paid off in a victorious Sheffield Shield campaign.
They enjoyed partnerships of 123, 142 and 151 runs and finished the season in the competition's top four batsmen.
Doolan, who also hit a career-best 161 not out for Australia A against South Africa's much-hyped pace attack and 87 for the Prime Minister's XI against the West Indies, clearly enjoyed batting with his mentor, at one point averaging 82.5 alongside Ponting and 26.3 without him.
Batting at three throughout the Tigers' Shield campaign, Doolan accumulated 715 runs at 42.05 before averaging 52.33 in June's Australia A tour of the UK.
Promoting his autobiography ifAt the Close of Play, Ponting urged national selectors to keep faith in their batsmen.
He told Fox Sports that the likes of Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shaun Marsh, Aaron Finch, Adam Voges and former South Launceston batsman George Bailey were ``the best batsmen that we've got'' and would benefit from a run in the Test team.
``I'd like to see a bit of stability, I'd like to see everyone given a certain role and stick with that through the majority of this Test summer.''