Ponting reaches boiling point as England seize complete control

Pressure mounts on Australian captain after fine for rant at umpire compounds his Ashes misery

Ricky Ponting's position as captain of Australia looked increasingly precarious after an extraordinary on-field outburst accompanied England's absolute dominance of the potentially pivotal fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne yesterday.

After two days at the MCG, England held a lead of 346, with Jonathan Trott's unbeaten century ushering them into a seemingly impregnable position, but it was Ponting's row with the umpire Aleem Dar that left the lasting impression. Ponting was fined 40 per cent of his match fee after his frustration over a TV referral decision boiled over.

Ponting, who has been struggling for form with the bat as well as trying to rally a side outplayed for much of the series, spent more than a minute remonstrating with Dar after demanding a review of a not out decision against Kevin Pietersen. Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin had launched a loud but solo appeal for caught behind, convinced that Pietersen, who was on 49, had edged a delivery from Ryan Harris. A review of the decision revealed no "hot spot" where the ball passed Pietersen's bat, but a furious Ponting, who was joined by finger-jabbing seamer Peter Siddle, argued long and hard with Dar, prompting jeers from the crowd.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) said in a statement that Ponting had pleaded guilty to the charge of "arguing or entering into a prolonged discussion with the umpire about his decision".

Ranjan Madugalle, the match referee, said: "Ricky's actions as captain of his country were unacceptable. A captain is expected to set the example and not get involved in a prolonged discussion with the on-field umpires and question their decision. While pleading guilty to the charge, Ricky understood the discussion went on far too long. He apologised for his action and stated that he has nothing but respect for the umpires and his on-field actions were not intended to show disrespect to Aleem Dar or Tony Hill."