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Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Sunday, 26 December 2010

Ashes: Michael Clarke backs Ponting to remain captain


Michael Clarke backs Australia captain Ricky Ponting

Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke says there is "no doubt" that Ricky Ponting should remain captain, despite their poor opening day in Melbourne.

Ponting is under growing pressure after he made just 10 in the home team's 98, before England raced to 157-0.

"Ricky has been a wonderful leader and an amazing player for a long time," said Clarke.

"I know he's copped his fair bit of criticism of late, but there's no doubt Ricky should be captain of Australia."

Clarke continued: "He should be the number three batter for Australia and I know that runs are around the corner for him.

"Every single player in that changing room supports him. He is too good a player to not turn it around. Hopefully in the second innings he'll score one of those big double hundreds he's scored before."

Meanwhile, Australia batting coach Justin Langer described the first day of the Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as unacceptable and called for a fightback from his team.

"We can make as many excuses as we like but it's an unacceptable performance," said former Australian opener Langer.

"It's been a shocking day for Australian cricket and we will have to fight back more than ever before to claw this game back."

Langer, who is also the team's leadership coach, made 250 against England in the Boxing Day Ashes Test of 2002.

And he added: "A Boxing Day Test match, in a series against England tied at 1-1 - a total of 98 isn't acceptable in any form of cricket let alone a Test match as big as this.

"England were extremely disciplined, I thought they bowled brilliantly but we didn't apply ourselves like you'd expect from an Australian batting line-up.

"If the ball is spinning a lot or seaming or swinging all batsmen are going to be under pressure but the alarming trend is we've been bowled out for a couple of scores under a hundred in the last six months and been five or six for not many throughout this series."

I must admit when England put down a couple [of catches] early on I thought maybe we'd had a bit of luck

Australia coach Tim Nielsen

Australia levelled the series at 1-1 with an emphatic victory in the third Test at Perth, but coach Tim Nielsen denied that his team's hopes of reclaiming the Ashes had finally gone after their disastrous first day in Melbourne.

"I don't think so but we've certainly got a job to do in the morning," added Nielsen. "If they go into lunch none or one down it's going to be tough for us.

"England outplayed us so we've got a job ahead of us but if we play our best we can get back into this game. We need to fight hard and really work hard to keep in the contest.

"The first couple of hours will be critical to any chances we have."

Lowest against England at the MCG
Lowest first innings at the MCG
Lowest against England since 1968
Lowest score in Australian since 1984
Lowest at the MCG since 1981
Lowest against England at home since 1936

Nielsen, who took over as coach in 2007, is now in danger of a second successive Ashes defeat, but remains optimistic his team can rally as they did in the previous Test at the Waca, where they recovered from 69-5 to win by 267 runs.

"We need to pitch the ball up, the wicket has changed a little bit," he added.

"As we saw last week in Perth one or two quick wickets can lead to three or four and hopefully we can get back into it.

"I must admit when they put down a couple early on I thought maybe we'd had a bit of luck and we might get through a tough period but unfortunately we weren't able to do that.

"It was pretty significant when young Phillip Hughes got out. We were just starting to ride the wave a little bit then we lost the wicket, then lost two, then we lost three wickets on 77 so before we knew it we were in the mire and treading water.

"Then as always tends to happen in Test cricket, when you get behind the eight ball the sun came out and we weren't able to bowl full enough or well enough in the second half of the day to impact early with the new ball they batted nicely and have got a lead so it was a tough day.

"You need to make sure you get through that first spell and get to lunch at worst two down, reset and keep fighting your way through as the wicket dries out and the sun comes out which is your chance to cash in a little bit.

"We couldn't do any of that and then they batted well enough to get through our early spells and the scoreboard tells the result.

"England bowled an excellent length, they got the ball up there and asked us to drive the ball, and probably two thirds or even a little bit more of the runs that England scored were off the back foot through point or square of the wicket so at times we probably bowled a little bit short."

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see also
England dominate woeful Aussies
26 Dec 10 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
26 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Justin Langer column
26 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Anderson hails 'unheard of' day
26 Dec 10 |  England
Fourth Ashes Test day one photos
26 Dec 10 |  England
England crash to heavy Ashes loss
19 Dec 10 |  England
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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