Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day

Clarke backs Ponting to rebound

Daniel Brettig at Adelaide Oval

November 26, 2012

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Australia's captain Michael Clarke is far less equivocal about Ricky Ponting's international future than the man himself, insisting his 37-year-old predecessor as leader can prosper again with the bat despite a dire Test in Adelaide.

On a pitch so good that South Africa were able to survive the final day for the loss of only four wickets, Ponting was bowled twice in the Test for only the second time - the first being on a poor surface at Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla in 1996. Acknowledging his poor display, Ponting said he was tentative, and expected a discussion on his future to take place with the selectors soon.

Clarke, however, left no-one in doubt of his desire to see Ponting go on for some time yet in his summation of the No. 4 batsman's position at the end of the Test. Ponting's value to the team as a senior figure, a standard setter at training and a source of batting and captaincy advice for Clarke remains highly regarded, even if his supply of runs has all but dried up.

"The one thing we need to keep in mind, is he was the leading run-scorer in Shield cricket leading up to this summer. So he's batting well," Clarke said of Ponting. "We could all get out early in our innings. Every single one of us, the start of your innings is the toughest time to bat, especially when you're facing the best attack in the world.

Ricky Ponting loses his footing, and his off stump, Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 1st day, November 22, 2012
Ricky Ponting was bowled in both innings of a Test for the first time since 1996 © Getty Images

"Once he gets in, I have no doubt at all he'll go on to make a big score. He knows how to make big hundreds, he's still as good a player under pressure as anybody in that change room. He'll just be working as hard as he can to get through the start of his innings like the rest of us, and then he'll cash in and make a big score, I'm confident of that."

Ponting's increasingly shaky place in the team appeared a less central concern for Clarke than how spent his bowlers looked at the conclusion of the Adelaide Test. With Nathan Lyon blunted and Ben Hilfenhaus exhausted, Peter Siddle's attempt to win the Test virtually on his own in the final session set a rare standard for commitment, and Clarke said more of the same would be required in Perth if Australia are to gain belated reward for two strong but ultimately thwarted performances in Brisbane and Adelaide.

"It's what's expected if you want to play for Australia," Clarke said. "If you want to be the best, you've got to dig deep, you've got to try to find a way. I pay a lot of credit to Sidds, he showed a lot of heart today, that's what we've come to expect from Sidds, that's why he's been a wonderful performer for Australia. That's what I expect from all the bowlers, all the batters. Sometimes it's tough out there with the bat or with the ball, you've got to find a way to have success.

"From all the bowlers, it was an amazing effort. Losing James obviously hurt us, I don't want to take anything away from South Africa, they did really well today. I thought Faf [du Plessis] was outstanding on debut to make a hundred, in conditions like that, under pressure. The wicket played really well, but I felt like we tried everything in our power - around the wicket, over the wicket, short balls, pitch it up, reverse swing, spin, I thought we had a red-hot crack. We did everything we could to try to win this Test, it was just unfortunate we couldn't get over the line."

Some scrutiny will fall on Lyon's spin as he wheeled away for 50 overs in the fourth innings but seemed to tighten up as a bowler on the final day. Lyon's arc flattened notably and he appeared to rush through his overs, but Clarke said the match would provide valuable lessons for a bowler who has played half his 30 first-class fixtures on the Test stage.

"I thought Gaz [Lyon] bowled really well through this Test," Clarke said. "Things didn't go his way, a few balls just went either side of fielders or didn't quite grab the edge, the wicket still played pretty well, wasn't as up and down as I'd expect on day five. But I thought Nathan did very well."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by mikey76 on (November 28, 2012, 21:19 GMT)

Poor Aussies still fishing around for decent batsman and coming up short. Look at Quiney, he would struggle to get in the Bangladesh first XI. As for Lyon, 50 overs for 3 wickets on a fifth day pitch tells you all you need to know about his ability. He should have a look at how the English spin twins bowl. Ponting is done, the wicketkeeper has butter fingers and all the quick bowlers are crocked. Clarke is literally carrying this side on his back at the moment.

Posted by V-Man_ on (November 28, 2012, 7:46 GMT)

If clarke and the selectors are planning to take ponting to the ashes then they should stick with him no matter if he scores runs or not. But if they are waiting to see how he goes then they need to sit down with ponting and tell him waca or tasi will be his last test even if he manage a big score in Perth.

If Hughes or Khawaja or another is to be anointed as his successor in the top order, the series against Sri Lanka at home would be as good a time as any to do so. It will allow the new comers to get some runs under their belt and build some confidence. India series will be tough. They need to plan for the ashes now. Not few months before it starts otherwise Australia is looking at another ashes loss.

Posted by V-Man_ on (November 28, 2012, 6:36 GMT)

If clarke and the selectors are planning to take ponting to the ashes then they should stick with him no matter if he scores runs or not. But if they are waiting to see how he goes then they need to sit down with ponting and tell him waca or tasi will be his last test even if he manage a big score in Perth. If Hughes or Khawaja or another is to be anointed as his successor in the top order, the series against Sri Lanka at home would be as good a time as any to do so. It will allow the new comers to get some runs under their belt and build some confidence. India series will be tough. They need to plan for the ashes now. Not few months before it starts otherwise Australia is looking at another ashes loss.

Posted by Meety on (November 28, 2012, 0:48 GMT)

@ Sinhaya on (November 27 2012, 15:21 PM GMT) - you may be right, but I wouldn't be so sure.

Posted by Biggus on (November 27, 2012, 21:59 GMT)

@Al Minidodo Warming-No, I'm afraid. Since India's player's and fans have now redefined any pitch with grass on it as a green-top in an effort to deflect criticism from their own performances (or lack thereof) you'd have to say the Adelaide pitch was a raging green-top since it had plenty of grass on it. So a 'good' pitch in Australia is now a green-top and a flat pitch in India still won't bounce above knee height unless you pitch it so short you're likely to hit your feet. I hope that has cleared up you're misconceptions.

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 27, 2012, 15:21 GMT)

@Meety, I am more than a 1000% sure that even if Ponting miserably fails in Perth, he will be in the side for the Hobart test against Sri Lanka and be eager to get back to form against our bowling attack just like how he got back into form against India last summer! I bet that will happen for sure!

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 27, 2012, 15:17 GMT)

@Meety, mark my words Ponting will definitely play against Sri Lanka and get back into form. I am sure he will score a double ton in Hobart when he becomes Australia''s highest capped test player. Mark my words. Like how he got back to form against India last summer, he will do the same against Sri Lanka.

Posted by Meety on (November 27, 2012, 7:58 GMT)

Good luck Punter, hope the form returns at the WACA.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (November 27, 2012, 7:32 GMT)

Ponting had the best shield average of any player at the start of the season. Hugehs is averaging 50 this year at shield level and Khawaja under. Ponting is averaging 50 at test level. So at this stage no-one is knocking the door down. I think Ponting has only had a couple of failures and deserves another couple of games.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 0:18 GMT)

I think punter should come out and say he is retiring at the end of the summer so he gets to play the 3 tests against sri lanka and say goodbye to Sydney, MElbourne and tasmania! That way he gets the send off he deserves and can enjoy the last few tests without any pressure of getting dropped! If he happens to score a mountain of runs in those tests then at the end of the series he can say well im going to have one last crack at the poms in the ashes as thats what he really wants!

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 0:13 GMT)

To say that no one is knocking down the door is innaccurate. Discarded test players Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja are currently 1 and 2 on top of the leading run-scorers in the Sheffield Shield right now. If that is not knocking on the door for test selection then what is? Especially in the case of Hughes who for a time was well worked out by the Australian bowlers following his dropping from the test team in 09 v. England. Both he and Khawaja deserve the opportunity to come into the squad. If it were any other player there would be no question that he should be dropped, but because it's Ponting, because of his record (which means zip at the moment), he is being given the benefit of the doubt, and it's gotten to the point where he has received the benefit of the doubt far too often. He's batted only slightly better than Quiney but Ponting continues to be a protected species. At least ditch him for the first test against the Lankans to give Hughes/Khawaja the chance they deserve.

Posted by V-Man_ on (November 26, 2012, 23:46 GMT)

selectors are waiting for the Srilankan series. i think pointing will get few big ones in that series just like he did against the indians last year and then they will say he is back and will take him to india. where he is going to get embrassed. but he will still be taken to the ashes. and thats where it will end. i like ricky but i think he is gonna end up playing couple of series too many. He is the leading run-scorer in Shield cricket this summer. but you also have to remember australian domestic cricket is not at the level it used to be. i dont see any bowlers who can be compared to the likes of kasper, bichel, dizzy, macgill, hodge or lee.

Posted by 5_day_tragic on (November 26, 2012, 23:28 GMT)

Punter is still in our top 6 batsmen in the country and fields like a 20 yr old.... Would love to see him either go back to number 3 or go down to number 6. If he's still got 'it' then 3 is his best spot...if he hasn't and you want him in the side still, then make it easier for him to start his innings.

Leave Clarke where he is and push Hussey up to 4. I think Huss would relish that opportunity. So I would go Warner, Cowan, Watson, Hussey, Clarke, Ponting OR Warner, Cowan, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Watson

Posted by MinusZero on (November 26, 2012, 22:47 GMT)

If Ponting scored runs in Perth he should retire anyway and go out on a high

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 22:00 GMT)

Is a "so good" pitch in Australia same as a "flat pitch" in the sub continent ?

Posted by poms_have_short_memories on (November 26, 2012, 20:31 GMT)

In punters defence 2 out 3 balls he's got out to in the series so far were bloody good balls and when Steyn bowled him he simply didn't have the bat at the right angle.khawaja at 4 clarke at 3 and ponting at 5 or 6 would be the best bet methinks

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 26, 2012, 18:00 GMT)

No matter if Ponting plays, Khawaja should be at number 3. He tore the (admittedly weak) English county system up.

Posted by binojpeter on (November 26, 2012, 17:01 GMT)

Cricket Australia has changed a lot since the last decade. Has become much like BCCI going by big names. I remember Cricket Australia asking Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh to plan their retirement as player and captain simultaneously much early even when they were doing good at both.

Posted by Aussasinator on (November 26, 2012, 16:36 GMT)

KHwaja has to be tried now when he's in form. He could win the next Test for Australia and take the pressure off Clarke which Ponting is creating.There is pressure on the openers and No. 3 too when they know the no 4 cant score enough.

Posted by r1m2 on (November 26, 2012, 15:30 GMT)

All I gotta say to Clarkey is "whatever, mate"... I mean after all Clarke has been an amazing captain, who's been in amazing batting form against all oppositions... So, just have to ignore itsy bitsy things such as this he may be doing wrong. It's entirely possible that Clarke's been batting for both Ponting and himself hence his amazing performance of late...

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 15:17 GMT)

My admiration for Clarke"s leadership is growing. He bats like a dream and has led brilliantly. He knows that Ponting is down on confidence and yet he also knows that there are not too many batsmen beating down the selection door. Quiney has failed and Watson will be back and it is certainly better to have the seniority and experience of Punter in a crunch game which will decide the no 1 status if test teams and something tells me that Ponting will replace the confidence of the team in his . God knows he wants to succeed. I only hope he does for his own sake Ramanujam Sridhar

Posted by Charlie101 on (November 26, 2012, 15:06 GMT)

Collingwood is a good example of a player who retired or was retired early . No one has really nailed his batting spot yet though it looks like Johny Bairstow finally will plus more importanly our slip cordon probably cost us the series against South Africa recently - Collingwood has definately not been replaced there . You can not always judge a players worth to the team based on statistics and Ponting must be a very good man to have in a fairly new team with a new Captain . The Indian fans are crying for Tendulcar's head at the moment and they shoud be careful what they wish for.

Posted by Naikan on (November 26, 2012, 14:29 GMT)

The key observation is that of Ponting's recent perfromance in the Shield cricket season. However, that can be misleading. Like Tendulkar, his test form for the last 2 years has dipped well below standard - Both of them have averaged below 40, which is mediocre by their standards. The selectors of both these countries are finding it difficult to tackle this issue of greater than life players. Even so I trust that the Australian selectors will be able to ask Ponting to call it day much more easliy than their Indian counterparts being able to do the same to Tendulkar.

Posted by PhaniBhaskar24 on (November 26, 2012, 13:53 GMT)

If ponting retires, all guns blazes on Tendulkar...sure he will be under more pressure to retire..i just couldn't understand that " I am enjoying the game & would continue to play", when you are not even making 50 runs

Posted by jmcilhinney on (November 26, 2012, 13:01 GMT)

As if Clarke would say anything else. That's not a criticism of Clarke but no player is going to say that their team-mate is rubbish even they do think he is. Ponting has been struggling for a while. Everyone thought that he was over it when he made a hundred in Sydney against India but that was exception rather than the rule. Just like Tendulkar, Ponting is a great player who is past his peak and looks like sliding quite rapidly. I can certainly understand why a player who still has the drive to compete wants to continue to play but it's very sad for fans to see once-great players struggling for extended periods. I know that there's a number of acerbic comments made between England and Australia fans at times but I say without any malice that I genuinely believe that Australia will be doing England a favour if they include Ponting in the touring party for the next Ashes. If you accept that Ponting is past it though, who to replace him with? Quiney? It would appear not.

Posted by Ravendark on (November 26, 2012, 12:40 GMT)

Was Bill Lawry the last Australian captain to be dropped? Punter might be the next. His footwork early on is non-existent and good bowlers will not give him the 25 minutes he needs to get going. The selectors cannot seriously consider him for the next Ashes and they need to bring in who will be playing in them sooner rather than later. I expect an announcement by the end of the summer.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (November 26, 2012, 11:10 GMT)

Clarke is correct to support Punter a he is a living legend. I think Punter should stay for the Perth test but should he retire on his own terms that I think Khawaja is the best player for the team. He has 2 man of the match awards against NSW and Tasmania on tough pitches from the last 2 games, the last of which included 138 while Tasmania got 95 as a team. The bulls are top of the table in Shield and defending champions, yet we don't have a single player in the Aussie team. What happend to rewarding performance. Get Khawaja in and also have a good look at Burns who is a future batsman.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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