Big decision looms on Ponting

2010-12-28 10:31
Ricky Ponting (AFP)

Melbourne - The pressure on Ricky Ponting's captaincy intensified when he was again out cheaply as Australia lurched towards looming Ashes series defeat against England in the fourth Test on Tuesday.

The beleaguered skipper went for 20 as the tourists closed in on expected victory with two days left in the Melbourne Test.

Andrew Strauss's team remorselessly pushed on for victory after dominating Ponting's Australians over three days of the lopsided Test and setting them a herculean task of rubbing out a 415-run innings deficit.

Much of Australia's hopes of resisting England's victory push hinged on Ponting's past ability to occupy the crease for a long innings, but he lasted only 101 minutes and 73 balls.

Ponting played from the crease to impressive Yorkshire seamer Tim Bresnan and got an inside edge onto his stumps to the sheer delight of the English team.

It continued a wretched series for the hounded Ponting, scoring just 113 runs at 16.14 and placing his distinguished 152-Test career in peril ahead of next week's final Test in Sydney.

It has been a fraught match for Ponting. He lost a crucial toss on a lively pitch, his side was routed for a first-day 98, he was fined and censured by the match referee for his prolonged argument with the umpires over a disputed referral and the runs have dried up.

Selectors now have the onerous decision whether to dump Ponting as captain for the final Test, if he loses his third Ashes series to England, and move him aside for his deputy Michael Clarke.

Ponting, 36, is in the twilight of an illustrious career and is the second all-time leading Test runscorer with 12 363 runs behind India's Sachin Tendulkar.

Ponting is also the most successful Australian captain with 48 wins from 76 Tests heading into the Boxing Day Test.

There will be calls for Ponting to receive a fitting farewell in the Sydney Test, starting next Monday, if selectors consider it is time to bite the bullet and start team rebuilding under a new leader.

Ponting pointed to the pressure he and his team were under heading into the third day of the Melbourne Test when he told national radio: "Probably the next couple of days for us are (our most challenging).

"We know there's a series on the line here and we know we've probably been a bit deficient in the way we've played in this Test match so far.

"We have to stand up as a group, I have to stand up as a player and lead well from the front."

Ponting said he prided himself on leading from the front and setting an example, both with the bat and as captain.

"That's why I'm disappointed with yesterday (when he received an ICC fine).

"I felt like I've not only let myself down, let my team-mates down and all those younger people who look up to what we do as players -- I've probably let them down as well yesterday."

Now that Ponting has failed again, the pressure will only increase on him to resolve his playing future.

Read more on:    ashes  |  ricky ponting

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