Ponting offers support to Warne

Ricky Ponting, whose team have stumbled at the start of the Ashes tour, has expressed the wish that Shane Warne will be able to concentrate on the forthcoming Test series despite the distractions engendered by the separation from his wife, Simone. In a joint statement earlier on Saturday, the Warnes had announced that there were parting ways after 10 years of marriage.

Warne retired from one-day international cricket two years ago, and after his team's emphatic 10-wicket victory over Bangladesh on Saturday, Ponting was moved to comment on the man who Australia still expects to be a matchwinner in the Ashes series. "That's awful news for anybody, to be separated from your wife," he said. "There's no doubt that everyone in our squad will be in touch with Shane at some stage.

"As far as it being a distraction when the Tests come around, hopefully it's not. It's obviously going to be a tough thing for Shane to deal with and cope with but hopefully he can do that as well as he can leading into the Test matches."

The Warne marriage had not been helped by relentless intrusion from the tabloids. As recently as last weekend, the Sunday Mirror carried lurid details of Warne's alleged affair with a 25-year-old Englishwoman. Past indiscretions involving mobile phones and text messages had also been extensively documented.

The statement issued by the couple said: "It is with regret that we inform you that we have decided to separate. We remain the best of friends and we will continue to be there for our three beautiful children. Please respect our privacy at this difficult and tough time."

It was on an Ashes tour, back in 1993, that Warne first proposed to his wife. They were married two years later, and have three children.