On arriving home yesterday, Ricky Ponting expressed his desire to continue as Australia's captain. Crestfallen, bruised and defeated he might have been but his declaration should have made England afraid. Very afraid.
Last time Ponting lost an Ashes series 2-1 he spent the next 18 months silently, broodingly plotting his revenge. The result was Australia 5, England 0, the first Ashes whitewash for 85 years which led to the departure of a coach and an overhaul of the system.
Ponting, his lip bearing the scar after being hit by the ball while fielding at The Oval on Saturday, said: "I still think I've got a lot to offer the team as a batsman and as a captain and a leader. If it ends up getting to the point where I'm not the captain, my hunger and determination to keep playing this game are as as good as ever.
"So if that's with a 'c' next to my name all well and good. If it's not I still think I've got a lot to offer, particularly to a lot of the younger guys that are in our set-up at the moment."
Ponting is only the second captain to have lost two Ashes series in England. The first was Billy Murdoch in 1884 and 1890 and he was so miffed after then being dropped by the Australian selectors that he played for England. Neither of those events is likely to happen this time since Ponting is unlikely to be removed from office.
He has been given the public backing of his players and most of the former captains who have offered opinions on the issue. Both Stuart Clark and Simon Katich, who returned to Australia yesterday, gave their approval to Ponting's continuing as they passed through Sydney Airport.
It is Ponting's own desire that is perhaps most important. There was no sign that he was debilitated by the loss, every sign that he was taking it personally.
"Having a pretty bitter and sour taste in my mouth at the end of that Test match, I'd love to be able to go back and give it one more crack," he said. "I've got to worry about that the next 12 or 18 months and see if all that hunger or commitment is still there. Right at the moment it most definitely is. It's probably higher right now than ever before. Who knows, 2013 might be something achievable."
In 2005, of course, Ponting still had at his disposal his great players and it was around them that he built the strategy to humiliate England in the return series 18 months later. This Australian side is not in the same category but the depth of Ponting's hurt is impossible to underestimate as is his determination to carry on.
"Leaders are always judged on results I guess," he said. "I learnt that in 2005, and I expect it's going to be similar this time around. It doesn't matter whether it's in business or sport, and unfortunately for me and for the team we haven't achieved the result we would have liked to achieve over the last couple of months. So I can understand those points of view being out there. The pleasing thing for me is I'm getting some support from Cricket Australia and the selectors as well."
Ponting, who has led Australia in 61 Test matches since 2004, fewer only than Allan Border's 93, did not discount the possibility of a split captaincy. That has happened before in Australia. He himself was in charge of Australia's one-day team while Steve Waugh led the Test team.
In recent times, however, deposed captains have not returned to the ranks as players in Australian teams. In England it happens all the time – Kevin Pietersen most recently and Nasser Hussain before that – but it is difficult to envisage Australia breaking their habit.
Ponting will return to England in 10 days for the last four matches of the one-day series, which starts with two Twenty20 internationals, and will then take the team to the Champions Trophy in South Africa straight after.
Brad Haddin, Australia's wicketkeeper, is out of the limited-overs matches in this country and may miss the Champions Trophy. He is having surgery on the ring finger of his left hand which he broke during the warm-up for the third Test in Birmingham.Reuse content