Ponting: I’m still top flight

Captain Ricky Ponting insisted he
took “full responsibility” for Australia’s failure to win back the Ashes – but
vowed to battle on as captain.

Ponting is the first Australian
skipper in 120 years to fail three times in the Ashes after England’s Melbourne

“I just haven’t performed the way I
needed to perform if Australia was going to win,” said Ponting.

“I still think I’ve got a lot to
offer as a batsman and a leader and hopefully that all comes out next week.”

England won the fourth Test by an
innings and 157 runs to take a 2-1 lead in the series which means they retain
the Ashes after winning the 2009 contest at home.

Ponting has endured a terrible
series with the bat, scoring 113 runs at an average of 16.14 in eight innings.

And he was fined 40% of his match
fee following a protracted on-field disagreement with umpires Aleem Dar and
Tony Hill after Australia were unsuccessful with a decision review on day two
of the Boxing Day Test.

“My series has been horrible,
there’s no two ways about it,” said Ponting, the second most prolific run
scorer in Test cricket behind India’s Sachin Tendulkar.

The Australian media has been
particularly critical of Ponting’s form and his captaincy, increasing
speculation that the 36-year-old could stand down after the series.

Ponting took over as captain in
early 2004 and led a losing side the following year when England won the Ashes
for the first time in 18 years.

Australia bounced back with a 5-0
series whitewash down under in 2006/07 as the side enjoyed a period of
dominance in Test cricket, but England regained the Ashes in 2009.

Asked whether he still wanted to be
captain by BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew, Ponting responded:
“Absolutely, I still want to be captain. I think I have a whole lot to offer as
a batsman and as a leader.

“If I have to make a decision
[about captaincy], I will make a decision that is right for Australian cricket,
not me.”

Australia were dismissed for only
98 on day one of the Boxing Day Test after Andrew Strauss opted to bowl first
on a green-top wicket offering assistance for the seamers.

It was the hosts’ lowest ever total
against England and the lowest first-innings score at the MCG, a performance
which earned scathing criticism from Australia’s demanding media.

“When you have been bowled out for
98 on the first day of a Test match, it’s pretty hard to bounce back,” admitted
Ponting, who has undergone a further X-ray on the broken finger he sustained in
Australia’s 267-run win over the tourists in Perth.

“We needed to get through the first
couple of sessions in the day one to give ourselves a chance in the game.

“If we could have set something to
set up on day one, we could have given them something to chase. But it wasn’t
to be.”

Both teams move on to Sydney, the
venue for the final Test of the five-match series, which begins on 3 January.

Australia displayed impressive
resolve following their defeat by innings and 71 runs by levelling the series
in Perth.

And Ponting believed his team have
the talent and sufficient mental fortitude to bounce back for a second time.

“We need to have a think about the
way we played here because it hasn’t been anyway near good enough,” he added.

“But I have full confidence that we
will be able to do that. Perth was a good indicator.

“We have got another game next week
to have some impact on the series, and hopefully win a test match for
Australia. 2-2 is a whole lot better than 3-1.”

No England team has won more than
three Test matches in a single Ashes series since 1978/79, when a weakened
Australia were thrashed 5-1 by Mike Brearley’s England.