Ricky Ponting's miserable performance with the bat continued the pattern of what is becoming a miserable season for Australia's captain. His side have been outplayed for the first three days of the second Test by Pakistan, coming off the back of an unconvincing series victory over West Indies, and through it all his personal form has been at best modest.
Yesterday he edged a ball from Umar Gul and returned to the pavilion with just 11 to his name as Australia fought desperately to stay in the game. It follows a duck in the first innings and Ponting's poor form with the bat, allied to his side's stuttering displays in the Test arena, has led to the first whispers over the captain's future. Ian Harvey, the former Australia all-rounder, believes the end should come for Ponting after this winter's Ashes. "Age is catching up with a few, and the captain's one of them," Harvey said.
"And if he thinks he's going to go to England in three years, then I'll be very surprised, because I can see these guys going downhill a little bit, and they can't see it themselves.
"I can see him losing it a bit. He's starting to drop a few catches, and he's falling for the short ball being caught on his hook shot now. I see a few things going backwards and three years is a long time – I don't want to see him like Allan Border, who played too long."
Ponting has not scored a Test hundred since his immaculate 150 in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff in July. In 16 innings since he has managed four half-centuries. He was forced to retire hurt with an elbow injury in the Perth Test against West Indies last month and that is still bothering him. But it still does not excuse an average in the twenties this Australian season – last year he averaged 38.77, some 17 runs fewer than his career return in Tests.
Shane Watson, who led Australia's rearguard action yesterday with another innings that ended in the nineties, came to his captain's defence after play ended with the home side just 80 ahead with two wickets in hand.
"He seems in a very good place, I've been spending a lot of time with him as I normally do," Watson said. "There has been a lot of play and misses throughout this game and, unfortunately, one of the ones that he drove went straight to second slip. We know exactly how Ricky Ponting plays. There's no doubt there's a big one coming really soon."
The third and final Test begins in Hobart on 14 January.
Australia v Pakistan
Sydney (Third day of five); Australia lead Pakistan by 80 runs with two second-innings wickets remaining; Australia won toss
Australia First Innings 127 (M Asif 6-41).
Pakistan First Innings 333 (S Butt 71, I Farhat 53; D Bollinger 4-72).
Australia Second Innings
S R Watson c Iqbal b Gul 97
P J Hughes c & b Kaneria 37
*R T Ponting c Iqbal b Gul 11
M E K Hussey not out 73
M J Clarke lbw b Asif 21
M J North c Iqbal b Kaneria 2
†B J Haddin lbw b Kaneria 15
M G Johnson b Kaneria 3
N M Hauritz c Misbah b Gul 4
P M Siddle not out 10
Extras (b 6, lb 1, w 2, nb 4) 13
Total (8 wkts, 87 overs) 286
Fall: 1-105, 2-144, 3-159, 4-217, 5-226, 6-246, 7-252, 8-257.
To bat: DE Bollinger.
Bowling: Asif 19-7-44-1, Sami 12.5-3-50-0, Gul 21-4-62-3, Kaneria 32.1-2-117-4, Farhat 2-0-6-0.
Umpires: E A R de Silva (S Lanka) & B R Doctrove (WI).Reuse content