England relentless in their quest for the promised land

The Ashes are in sight despite Australian resistance after follow-on
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The Independent Online

It was as close to snarling as you can get in Test cricket and what is known as a four-letter tirade. Ponting later issued a statement in which he obviously recognised his folly but it showed Australia are close to defeat in this Test and the series.

They are still in there fighting, but with six second-innings wickets left they were still 37 behind England at the close. Anything is possible with Australia, who were forced to follow on for the first time in 17 years and nearly 200 Tests, but England have exhibited an assurance which seems to brook no opposition.

Ponting's annoyance merely showed how England's cricket has begun to undermine his team. It was also misplaced on this occasion, brimming over because he was run out by England's substitute fielder, Gary Pratt, who threw down the stumps from cover. Australia have been perplexed all series by England's repeated use of substitute fielders, which has pushed the regulations to the limit. On this occasion though, Ponting was just plain wrong. Pratt was on for the England seam bowler, Simon Jones, who was off the field for treatment to an injured ankle. On no account would England have allowed Jones to be off the field otherwise. In the morning he had completed his second five-wicket haul of the series. They will be desperate for Jones, who had a surgical boot fitted and will be reassessed this morning, to bowl.

Ponting said: "I am very disappointed with my dismissal given it was a crucial stage of the game and I had worked very hard to get to that position. I have no doubt I let myself down with my reaction and for that I apologise. My frustration at getting out was compounded by the fact I was run out by a substitute fielder, an issue that has concerned us throughout the series."

England have played a canny game throughout, never rising to Aussie bait and throwing out some of their own. Duncan Fletcher, their coach, said: "If someone wants to take a quick single to cover and gets run out, whose fault is that?" he said.

Ponting's wicket was followed by that of Damien Martyn but Australia's fifth wicket then put on an unbroken 121. It should have been breached but for Geraint Jones's failure to stump Michael Clarke minutes before bad light intervened. Clarke had sashayed down the pitch but the ball went through Jones's gloves on to his stomach. Australia's position, however, is as precarious as Jones's glovework.

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