Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day December 7, 2010

It's all slipping away from Ponting

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Ricky Ponting isn't sure whether the situation he'll face over the next three Tests is the biggest challenge of his career. He must quickly realise it is because he is fighting for runs, his team and his captaincy. England's innings demolition of Australia in Adelaide has left the hosts chasing two wins to have any chance of regaining the Ashes. In their current form, one success would be a sea-parting achievement.

Ponting has already lost two Ashes series and if he fails for a third time there will be little sympathy from spectators and selectors. There are major fires burning all around him and he is finding it impossible to put any of them out. Selection issues, the heel injury to Simon Katich, bowlers who can't maintain their line, untrustworthy spinners and the most inconsistent No.6 in the game are among the most prominent concerns. Then there is the blazing issue of his lack of runs.

He is a great batsman who is struggling for impact in situations he used to control. In this game he collected a first-ball duck and 9, taking his tally to 70 in four innings. After the match Ponting was reluctant to single out any of his team-mates for criticism, but piled it on himself. Ponting will be 36 by the end of the Perth Test, so his time is running out.

"Don't worry about winning the games, I've got to make some runs," Ponting said with typical candour. "It's as simple as that." In reality, the situation is much more complex because even if Ponting rushes back into form he will be unable to carry the side unless there are dramatic all-round improvements.

"There's a great challenge for me to score runs but there's a great challenge for me to captain the side well in Perth and give the guys the best chance to get our way back into the series," he said. "We have to win two games, and we have to play good cricket to win a single game."

Over the past seven days there have been only poor performances from Australia. They were in charge for the opening stages in Brisbane but have been swatted aside ever since. Ponting knows this and is doing well to remain relaxed. He speaks confidently about Australia's ability to turn things around even though his words, in public and from team meetings, sound shallow.

"We've been doing a lot of talking about things, about what we want to do and how to change and rectify things, but our actions have been what has let us down so far," he said. "Skills at different times have let us down and we understand that."

The batsmen, including Ponting, started the slide in Adelaide by losing three wickets for two runs on the opening morning on the way to being dismissed for 245. Australia were then able to take only six wickets before England declared at 620. On the final morning the last half-dozen local breakthroughs came for 54 runs as England were handed a 1-0 advantage, which is much more weighty than it looks. The predicted storms arrived at 2pm, but by then the teams were already being packed off to their next destinations.

Easily the most frightening aspect of this result for the Australians was that, unlike the weather, they didn't know it was coming. They thought they were well matched against England and deserved to be favourites, even though they started the campaign on a three-match losing streak, their worst since 1988-89. Instead England played like an outfit on top of the world and Australia did an excellent impression of a group over-rated at No.4.

"Probably not," Ponting said when asked if he'd seen the result coming. "You probably wouldn't have thought so after the first three days in Brisbane. I thought the way everything was heading for us up there, it looked like we were playing some good cricket and we were on the right track. We had a group of players together skill-wise who were going to be good enough to win the series."

The scenario has been brutally altered and the Australians now face the extremely unusual situation of having to hang on at home. South Africa beat the hosts here two summers ago for the first series win by an overseas side since 1992-93. Losing has since become a habit for Ponting's men, who haven't won a Test since Lord's in July. Now their fortress is ruined.

"It probably looks as if we are going to have to be at our absolute best if we are going to work our way back into the series," Ponting said. "The challenges are there, the pressure's on the players just to make sure we give it our best shot for the next three weeks."

Most of the squad will have time off before the unit for the third Test is named on Friday. Changes will have to be made and Ponting was due to meet with Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, to pick through the remains.

Over the past year Ponting has lost power in his batting, his leadership and his sway with the decision makers. The era is moving on and, sadly, a true great is being left behind.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • VairaPandi on December 11, 2010, 8:59 GMT

    Well Sunny commented what will happen to Cricket Australia when Greg Chappel left India and joined CA. Now we are seeing the results. Greg made statements about what Sachin will do, etc but he never made efforts for unified team efforts bringing up the team in total. Now every Test, we see changes in CA, this will lead to the doom. Great Greg.

  • Faraz_Baig_AusFan on December 9, 2010, 16:25 GMT

    @goodsport well said, good on ya

    And to all the Australia bashers don't be surprised if we see something special in this series

  • skkh on December 9, 2010, 12:45 GMT

    allforone ..mate you are so right. Yes the world over everyone hates us Aussies just because we have dominated them for donkeys years. Yes we are down but not out. We will come out stronger and we aussie fans will have patience with our team.

  • goodsport on December 9, 2010, 11:47 GMT

    Well, firstly can I say how ironically hypocritical it is for people to write how much of a bad sportsman Ricky Ponting is, and in the same breath revel and laugh at one average, and one poor performance from the Aussie team. I totally understand that there may be special joy in watching the Australia team lose, due to their total dominance of international cricket until recent times. However, should we burn effigies of Ricky Ponting, a man under a lot of pressure, yet obviously still trying? He could have retired a year ago as one of the all time greats, yet he remains to try and steer a struggling ship through unchartered waters. No matter what the result of this series, I will still support Australia, and the tone of the majority of these comments should make any true cricket lover sick to hear. If you are ecstatic at the issues facing Australian cricket, good for you, but always remember that it comes and goes in cycles. See you on the downswing.

  • superbindia on December 9, 2010, 9:24 GMT

    Well....To criticise Ponting is just blaming someone for the defeat...Is he the real reason for the defeats? Maybe he got some decisions wrong..every captain does, sometimes the luck is with you and the decisions turn out to be great as it is happening with MS Dhoni....Unfortunately for him, his team has downgraded to a good team from a great team and other sides have also become good teams...so its an even contest and to add to his bad luck, almost all the english batters are in form...Its just bad luck.. and as somebody else commented below, not even the greatest captain in cricket history could have saved the second test match for austraila...its just that english are playing better cricket...simple..

  • sammykent on December 9, 2010, 1:54 GMT

    In cricket anything can happen. Ponting's problem is that England have an amazingly well balanced team. 1,2,3,4 and 6 are all dedicated batsmen. 5 is the allrounder and 7 is the specialist keeper. 8,9,10,11 are bowlers, one spinner and three fast options. This gives them perfect balance and specific roles that they are performing well at. Australia has an opener that bowls about ten overs an innings, a keeper that shoulders the burden of batting, a number six that...well I'm not sure what he is supposed to be. Some flexibility in the team is a good thing but England have shown that a well prepared team with well defined roles can be a thing of beauty. KP was used as a capable change up bowler but essentially he was not over utilised so he could remain fresh as a batsman. Australia need to get an opener, use Watson as a number five, drop North and get a proper spinner. As well as putting faith in whichever quicks are fit.

  • D.Sharma on December 9, 2010, 1:33 GMT

    Ponting's time has come. No point sticking around. Nathan Hauritz is a better number three and he can't do a Tendulkar. Great career Punter, time to say BYE.

  • VijayRajan on December 8, 2010, 23:09 GMT

    England has some renewed energy and self belief in them that was missing for the last 20 or so years. They had greats like Gooch, Lamb, Gatting, Willis, Botham and Stewart but they just did not do well as a unit.

    I think their WC T20 victory, a renewed test squad and their ODI teams are just building up well. I think they are strong contenders for WC 2011. I think NZ is hurt so bad after the Bangla drubbing and the almost-white wash that they could be the team to look out for.

    Anywant want to bet that its going to be an England-NZ final in ODI WC 2011?

  • gerardpereira20 on December 8, 2010, 21:18 GMT

    Well why not bring back Mcgrath, Hayden , Gilchrist and Steve Waugh while you are at it. Just because Warne takes a few wickets in the IPL on spinner friendly wickets against some very mediocre batsmen in matches that last four hours does not mean that he is either match fit or will be as great and effective as he used to be in a five day test match. I think Warne knows that better than anyone .Just mentioning his name in a playing context shows how desperate the situation has become for Australia even if half the England team they are trying to beat are not English.

  • da_team on December 8, 2010, 21:00 GMT

    Ponting win or lose mate ill still be cheering for you : )

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