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Australia batsman Ricky Ponting.
Australia batsman Ricky Ponting.

Australia with keep faith with off-form Ricky Ponting, insists coach

Mickey Arthur has backed the former Test captain despite a haul of just 20 runs across the first Two tests against South Africa.

Ricky Ponting will not be axed despite a series of below-par performances against South Africa, Australia's coach has insisted.

The former captain has mustered just 20 runs in the two Tests against the Proteas so far, but was named in the team for the final Test this Friday.

After smashing 355 runs in Sheffield Shield cricket at an average of 118, Ponting's form has dipped steeply on the international stage.

But with a three-match series against Sri Lanka next month being followed by a trip to India in late February, Arthur said Ponting remains a key part of the Australia set-up.

"At the moment Ricky Ponting has the unanimous backing of the selection panel ... we want Ricky Ponting to go to the Ashes, there is no doubt about that," Arthur said.

"We want Ricky Ponting certainly around for the next six months.

"By his own admission Perth (against South Africa) is a big Test for him, but Ricky's prepared brilliantly.

"He will leave no stone unturned in his preparation going into Perth and I'm backing him for a big score."

While Ponting's spot is secure for the foreseeable future, Rob Quiney lost his place at number three after a score of nine in the opening Brisbane Test followed by a pair in Adelaide.

A 14-man extended squad for the Perth clash was named yesterday that saw recovered vice-captain Shane Watson replace Quiney, while pace trio Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings and Josh Hazlewood will battle with Brisbane and Adelaide Tests' 12th man Mitchell Starc for the injured James Pattinson's position.

There may be room for another one of those four speedsters to bowl at the WACA, with pacemen Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus both pulling up sore following the gruelling second Test draw with South Africa.

Arthur stressed Quiney, who was voted the country's best domestic player last season, would wear the baggy green again.

"Rob Quiney's Test career is definitely not over," Arthur said.

"He obviously didn't get the runs he wanted but for everything else he's been outstanding.

"The message to him is to simply keep knocking on the door because you never know what's around the corner and if he keeps his name up in lights, he'll certainly get another crack at it."


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