x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ponting issues rallying cry to batsmen

The Australia captain Ricky Ponting sends out a blunt message to his top-order teammates ahead of the Test in Melbourne: "make more runs".

MELBOURNE // The Australia captain Ricky Ponting has sent out a blunt message to his top-order teammates ahead of the Test against South Africa in Melbourne: "make more runs". Australia's top five batsmen made a total of two fifties between them in the first Test at the WACA in Perth and if the hosts are to level the three-Test series that they currently trail 1-0 at the MCG, Ponting said that more runs will need to flow from the side's recognised batsmen. "The top-order batting, probably in both innings, left a little bit to be desired so that's one aspect that we all want to tighten up," said Ponting. The 34-year-old was also quick to defend Matthew Hayden after the under-fire opener failed again in Perth, insisting he was just one of many who needed to lift their games ahead of the second Test. "Matty (Hayden) obviously has had his fair share of criticism this week but he has worked extremely hard on his game, has got a very good record here in Melbourne for Boxing Day Test matches and hopefully he can have another great game this week. "I made zero and 32 in Perth ? 32's not good enough for a top-order batsman either. Once you get a start you're expected to go on and make big scores."

The reigning Allan Border Medalist Brett Lee is another elder statesman who has struggled for form and, consequently, found himself under the glare of media scrutiny. However, Ponting still has the utmost faith in Lee's abilities and expects the 32-year-old to bounce back after taking only one for 132 in Perth. "For me and for Brett it's about backing himself, backing his abilities knowing that he's got the rest of us behind him," he said. "We want him to stand up and continue to be the leader of attack that he has been for the last couple of years." While Australia find themselves in the unusual position of trailing a home series 1-0, the South Africa captain Graeme Smith does not see the need to increase the pressure on his opponents.

Smith believes that his Australian counterpart Ponting is already feeling the pinch without needing to be reminded about it. "Tactically I don't think it's been something that we've needed to think about," said Smith. "I've been clear on the message that it's about the cricket on the field and that's where we're going to win our battles. "He (Ponting) is a very competitive guy, he's the type of character, when backed into the wall, I think he'll come out fighting so we've prepared for that and hopefully we can keep the foot on them and keep the pressure on them." After finishing off their remarkable six-wicket victory in Perth, Smith believes that the Proteas need to again make sure Australia's batsmen fail to fire. "Creating as much pressure as we can on their top order is going to be the key. "I think (we) certainly gained a lot of self-belief (in the first Test) having Australia on that (WACA) wicket in trouble, top order knocked over pretty early in both innings. "I think the key here is progressing that performance and maybe being a little bit more ruthless than we were."