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Page last updated at 09:43 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Ponting admits Australia failings

Ricky Ponting
Ponting has been Australia's Test captain for more than four years

Australia captain Ricky Ponting admitted his team face problems after their Test series loss to South Africa.

Defeat in Melbourne condemned them to a first home series defeat since 1992.

"We've had our opportunities in both Tests and when the big moments came up we haven't been good enough to put the nails in the coffin," he said.

"When we have been confronted with good sides like India and South Africa a lot of our deficiencies and inexperience has raised its head."

The Australia team has changed dramatically since winning the Ashes in 2006-7, with half a team of world-class players having retired, including spinner Shane Warne, seam bowler Glenn McGrath and wicketkeeper/batsman Adam Gilchrist.

"We're 18 months into that generation change, there's no hiding that," said Ponting, whose batting form was one of the few consolations in Melbourne, and saw him come within one run of being the first man to score hundreds in each innings of a Test on four occasions.

Former skipper Ian Chappell said: "It's been coming for a while, it was always going to happen after McGrath and Warne left, and probably if anything it has taken a little bit longer than some of us thought.

"It's come home to roost now and they're struggling like hell to get wickets."

Ponting's team has now lost two of their last three series, with a 2-0 home win over New Zealand sandwiched between comprehensive defeats against India and now South Africa.

"They're going to find it hard to turn around and that is the toughest decision for the selectors because he'd want to improve his captaincy on the game he had in Melbourne but if he keeps having games like that you've got to put a real query against his captaincy.

"He's obviously the stand out batsman and the problem is you might have a very aggravated player if he loses the captaincy."

The man himself found it difficult to comprehend how his team had crumbled after making 394 and then allowing South Africa to recover from 184-7 to post a competitive first-innings total of 459.

"This was a disappointing game for us, we pretty much turned an un-loseable game into one which we've lost comfortably," he lamented.

"Although we've lost we've done some things really well but the gap between our good cricket and worst has been too wide.

"Every day's cricket you play you learn something about the game and if you don't you're wasting your time.

"The majority are negative ones for us but we've got to look at the game and dissect it and look at areas to improve on for next time.

"That's what is disappointing, normally when we're confronted with some really big challenges is normally when we stand up and play our best cricket but that's been missing over the last couple of weeks."

The South Africans, having lost seven of their previous 10 Tests in Australia prior to this series, will now replace Australia as the world's top Test team if they win the final Test, starting on 3 January.

"It just goes to show if you hang in there long enough and believe in your plans things can change pretty quickly and some of our younger guys will learn that and make sure their discipline and execution is better.

"Hopefully we can mount enough pressure to create some chances against this batting line-up."

Ponting's team now has to revive their fortunes to avoid the ignominy of being the first Australia team to be whitewashed at home.

"It's a bit of an awakening, we've got to look at some of the things South Africa have done well and try to do them," he said.

"The young guys I'm sure will learn a bit from that and hopefully down in Sydney when and if those moments present themselves hopefully we'll be good enough to win them next time."

Chappell, meanwhile, predicted a grim future for his compatriots and said: "There's no quick fix.

"A big part of the problem is a few years ago you had guys like Allan Border saying we've got to get used to 28-year-olds making their debuts for Australia - well that's rubbish.

"We've got into the habit of that and we've got to get out of it, but that's going to take a long time to turn around.

"It's a bit of a trough at the moment. If you go back to the mid-80's, that was the last time Australia had a really down period and I think we're headed for another one of those."

The world's three leading news agencies are not covering the series due to a dispute with Cricket Australia.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press have suspended all coverage of the 2008-09 season.

Their photographers and reporters did not supply material from within the ground. As a result, we cannot use pictures from the current match.

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see also
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Lee & Symonds to miss final Test
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Hayden ready to fight for place
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Australia turn to spinner Hauritz
25 Dec 08 |  International Teams
S Africa run chase stuns Aussies
21 Dec 08 |  Cricket

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