Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 1st day December 26, 2010

Clarke lost for words after awful display


"What can you do?" Michael Clarke and the Australians are almost out of answers on how to fix Australia's regular batting collapses. There's hard work and trusting your own game, Clarke said, but today that empty philosophy resulted in the hosts edging to 98 all out.

Six months before that it was 88 in Leeds, and at the start of the year it was 127 against Pakistan at the SCG. Last year it was batting problems at Lord's and The Oval that cost Australia the Ashes and after this meagre first innings they look headed towards another match and series defeat.

The locals knew life was going to be difficult after they lost the toss on a seaming surface, but the day quickly unravelled as the batsmen ignored their pre-game discussions. "We had to work hard and be disciplined with our shot selection, we had to leave the ball well and stick to our plans," Clarke said. "We weren't at our best today."

Clarke top scored with 20 while Phillip Hughes (16) and Ricky Ponting (10) were the only other members of the top eight who reached double figures. Edging balls that needed to be left was a feature of the procession. "Our shot selection wasn't great, no doubt," Clarke said. "All our wickets were caught behind the wicket.

"We certainly have no excuses, we played some poor shots today and didn't show enough discipline. As we've seen, when the sun came out, it's a really nice wicket to bat on." England finished at 0 for 157 and the closest Australia came to a wicket was when Alastair Cook was given out lbw, a decision which was overturned when replays showed an inside edge.

Clarke's contribution took his series tally to 135, a haul boosted by 80 in the second innings in Adelaide, and a major reason why Australia are in such a bad position is because both the vice-captain and the captain are struggling. Ponting has only 93 for the campaign and the end of his career comes closer with each failure.

Clarke, the leader in waiting as long as he starts to score heavily again, delivered a spirited defence of Ponting, who is carrying a broken finger. "Ricky has been a wonderful leader and an amazing player for a long time, his record in international cricket speaks for itself," he said.

"He's copped a fair bit of criticism of late and no doubt he'd like to score more runs, as a lot of us would, but there's no doubt Ricky should be the captain of Australia and the No.3 batter for Australia. Runs are around the corner for him. Every player in the room supports him. Hopefully in the second innings he can come out and score one of those double hundreds."

A century to Clarke would also be well timed, individually and for the side. "I thought I played okay today, I was happy I got to spend some time in the middle," he said. "I was disappointed with my shot. I thought I was being quite disciplined till that shot. It's something I've got to keep working on. Keep training, keep trying to get better."

Everyone in the Australian dressing room felt the same after such a poor performance on Boxing Day, which is such a grand cricket occasion. "We're all disappointed, the batters especially," Clarke said. "We knew it was going to be tough. Individually we're all disappointed. Then the bowlers are disappointed because they couldn't get a wicket. We've got to turn it around."

The situation was best summed up by Tim Nielsen, Australia's coach, on Twitter: "That was a terrible day. Well behind the game now and nothing to do but fight our backsides off!" Nielsen, who has had the job since 2007, is in charge of providing the team with some of the right answers.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nadeem on December 27, 2010, 5:15 GMT

    Guys. Simple. Its time for ponting to retire from test cricket or or..give captaincy to somebody else and improve his batting. Otherwise say good bye to cricket before CA fire him on the spot. This is worse performance by ponting that i know for long time. So sad to see a legend go down like that in ashes series. There can be only two reasons; bear with me. #1 either he is too old and has no refelex left to play test cricket and out of form or #2 very important ; may be he is making big bucks before his retirement. Every player needs money.

    Its hard to say that a pro like Ponting will sacrifice his integrity and greatness infront of money therefore i still believe the #1 reason is his poor form. But i been watching cricket for long and i think this is the last chance for ponting to earn big bucks. Sorry punter but you are not helping the cause by getting too much money in your plate. Sorry guys, i can be totaly wrong but i have a valid point.

  • Anver on December 27, 2010, 5:02 GMT

    Yet a another big failure for Aus top order batsmen..... main batters like Ponting & Clarke r not performing at all for Aus thats why they r not getting that big totals like in the past......An unforgettable BOXING DAY for Aussies !!!!!!!

  • Mark on December 27, 2010, 4:59 GMT

    @MrJames. As odd as it sounds, lots of wins does not a good captain make. Ponting leadership of a phenominal side including some of the best players in history (including himself) was no doubt impressive, however you ge the feeling any one of them could do it, not the least shane warne. He reminds me of the football coach Avram Grant, great at Chelsea FC with all their fantastic players but at Portsmouth and West Ham looks way out of his depth. I fear the same for Ponting. So no, he isnt the best captain you have ever had, he was nowhere near as good a captain as Michael Vaughan and he is not as good as Andrew Strauss. However, who can replace him? Is Clarke any better? Only time will tell. As an outsider, Hussey comes across as a good candidate, if it werent for his age, after that...? Take a punt on Phil Hughes, why not? Someone seems to like him for some reason.

  • Mohan on December 27, 2010, 4:42 GMT

    1. England are at the top of their game. And we've not yet seen Pietersen and Collingwood pile big runs. 2. It is sick and tiring to note people claim Ponting has won WCs or other matches and Tendulkar has not. These views are posted by folks who are entirely ignorant of cricket and the two teams of top-rated Australia and relatively average India.

    * Ponting's 4 man of the series awards fades in comparison with Sachin's 13 -(including a World Cup player of the series). Sachin has won 55 man of the match awards while Ponting has won 25. Sachin scored 1796 runs in WC and Ponting 1537.

  • Mradul on December 27, 2010, 3:10 GMT

    @chichawatni: I have pity on you, first this article was in context for Ashes which Sachin doesn't play, secondly there are not one but atleast 60 such innings in ODI and more than 10 in Test where Sachin has been Man of the Match. In 1990 at the age of 17 he 'Single handidly' saved the test match for India against Eng. In 1996 he single handedly to Semi-Finals. In 1998 he Single Handedly won India the tri-series in Sharjah where he smacked 432 runs including 134 in the finals. In 1998 he single handedly won India the test in Chennai aginst Aussies by scoring 155 in the second innings. Then he top scored in 2003 WC where he was also the Man of the Tournament. Recently Sachin single handedly scored 200 in an ODI and Won the match, then scored 160 vs New-Zeland in first test and gave India their first Series victory in NZ in dont know how many years and then scored 214 vs Aussies and Won the match, and he is still going on and on. He did it when he was 16 and still doing when he is 38!

  • abd on December 27, 2010, 3:05 GMT

    Ponting played well only because of Hayden and Langer. The best opening pair gave a good start for Ponting to come in and score runs. I would like to see the stats when Hayden/Langer failed to give a good start.

  • Runster on December 27, 2010, 1:07 GMT

    @CHICHAWATNI wat the hell? ponting is pathetic and tendulkar has won matches for india and is a much better batsmen. ponting is hopeless. I wud even pick ms dhoni as a batsman captain ahead of ponting.

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2010, 23:28 GMT

    I have never ever written off Ricky Ponting.

  • Nimal on December 26, 2010, 23:01 GMT

    I've said this before, and I'll say it again. This guy- Steve Smith is not a cricketer of quality; he has neither the technique, nor the temperament. These fly-by-night' sort of cricketers are plentiful in Australia. Only the Australian selectors can't see it ! This is a pretender. There are several top quality cricketers currently playing, who are not given a chance because NSW dominates Australian cricket !

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2010, 22:57 GMT

    This isn't completely Ponting's fault. Regardless, he has now spent longer as captain than Waugh or Taylor, and he's 36 years old and struggling with the bat, and his team is losing. Hussey is already 35 and won't be there for many more years either. It's time for some serious change - Clarke to be given his opportunity to captain after this series is done, and new batsmen need to be given a go very soon - Cameron White, Steve Smith, Callum Ferguson, and Usman Khawaja.

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