x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Clueless Ponting may bat down at No 4 for Brisbane Test

The beleaguered Australian captain may move away from his trademark batting position at Brisbane in an effort to level the series and save some pride.

Ponting is the only Australian captain to have lost all three Ashes Test series that he has led the team in.
Ponting is the only Australian captain to have lost all three Ashes Test series that he has led the team in.

England stormed to an imperious innings and 157-run victory in the fourth Test to retain the Ashes and plunge a declining Australia side into a painful period of introspection.

The victory, completed before lunch on the fourth day, gave holders England an unassailable 2-1 lead in the five-Test series and made Andrew Strauss's team the first to take the Ashes home since the Mike Gatting-led triumph of 1986/87.

Then, as now, the venue of the decisive victory was the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a hulking coliseum where England had enjoyed precious few victories in preceding years.

On Wednesday, however, it resembled a Lord's or a Headingley, with thousands of English supporters clad in white and red chanting joyously in the stands as the tourists completed a stunning rout of their former tormentors.

The England players embraced and pumped their fists in the air upon the dismissal of the hapless Ben Hilfenhaus, caught behind for a duck off Tim Bresnan's bowling, as Australia were all out for 258. "I think winning the Ashes has always been a bit of a holy grail for English sides," said Strauss, whose 'no complacency' mantra has been taken fully to heart by his business-like side.

"We haven't won the Ashes yet but we've obviously retained the urn which has certainly been one of our primary goals.

"The guys deserve everything they get, the players have stood up and performed when it matters, the back-room staff have prepared us well and we sit here now feeling like a lot of hard work has paid dividends for us."

Ricky Ponting was gracious in defeat, but it was all pain and regret for the Australian skipper, who also lost on tour in 2005 and last year, as his woeful form at the crease mirrored the side's greater batting struggles.

"Hopefully I'm not just remembered as that guy, the guy who lost those three Ashes series... I guess this result here is not one of my proudest."

Speculation has been rife that the 36-year-old might relinquish the captaincy in disappointment, but Ponting said he would continue to fight for Australia's leadership, even as the side faces years of rebuilding to regain their former standing.

"It's out of my control," the under-fire captain said of his tenure at the helm, as selectors prepare to choose the side for the fifth Test in Sydney.

Australia had resumed on 169 for six, still facing a 246-run deficit to make England bat again but lost their remaining wickets shortly before lunch with a day and a half left to play.

The failure in the batting department has compounded Ponting's personal show with the bat.

His sublime gifts with the bat, which have yielded 39 Test centuries over the course of a glittering 15-year career, have never been in question.

That they are now following a series in which he has scored a solitary half-century from eight innings, has proved almost as galling to the Tasmanian as defeat to bitter rivals England. "I wish I knew," Ponting told reporters with furrowed brow, when asked to explain his form lapse. "I've trained the same way, I felt like I've been well prepared for every game."

"We've had four Tests and eight innings, a few of those I probably felt I hadn't done a lot wrong to be dismissed.

"When you're having a run like I'm having at the moment, you tend to try and find ways of getting out and the game can just really grab hold of you and you feel like you're unlucky all the time."

Ponting has stuck barnacle-like to the No3 position for most of his career, but admitted that selector Greg Chappell had talked to him about a possible move down the order to number four before the opening of Brisbane Test.

The notion was a "two-minute" conversation at the time, Ponting said, but conceded the following three Tests had taken their toll. "I guess there's been a few doubts creeping into my mind over the last couple of weeks, I'm not going to hide that," he said.

"I definitely have to re-evaluate where I'm at as far as where I bat in a Test match is concerned."