Ponting to play for Somerset

WORLD CUP winner Ricky Ponting has agreed to a deal to play county cricket for Somerset in 2004.

The Australia one-day captain 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 Championship Division Two 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 runs in one-dayers.