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Clarke backing Punter

Captain urged to save self and team with a double hundred

Ponting goes cheaply again

Under-fire skipper Ricky Ponting should remain captain of Australia despite the spectre of losing the Ashes series against England, vice-captain Michael Clarke said on Sunday.

Australia endured one of their worst ever days and now face a mountain to climb to save the fourth Test, after England seized command on the opening day at the MCG.

England routed Australia for 98 and were 59 runs ahead at 157 without loss at the end of play in the Boxing Day Test.

It was Australia's lowest total in 133 years of Ashes Tests at the MCG and Ponting's wretched series continued, with another cheap dismissal for 10.

He has scores of 10, 51 not out, 0, 9, 12, 1 and now 10 in this series and he faces the grim prospect of losing his third Ashes series as Australian captain over the coming week.

But Ponting received staunch support from his deputy, who insisted Ponting had the support of every player in the Australian team.

"I think Ricky has been a wonderful leader and an amazing player for a long time," Clarke said.

"I think his record in international cricket speaks for itself. I know he's copped a fair bit of criticism of late and no doubt he would like to be scoring more runs, as a lot of us would be.

"But I think there's no doubt Ricky should be the captain of Australia, he should be the number three batter for Australia and I know that runs are around the corner for him.

"Every single player in that changeroom supports him, he's too good a player not to turn it around."

Clarke said he was backing Ponting to score a Test-saving double-century when it came to Australia's turn to bat again in the Melbourne Test.

"So hopefully in the second innings here he can come out and score one of those big double-hundreds he has scored before," he said.


Clarke, who has also had a patchy series with the bat, added he was disappointed with his shot-making that contributed to his dismissal for 20 on Sunday.

"I thought I played okay today, I was happy that I got to spend some time in the middle," Clarke said.

"But I was again disappointed with my shot (to get out), it was poor shot selection and I thought I was being quite disciplined until I made that shot.

"It's something I have to keep working on, keep trying to get better, but I feel like I am hitting the ball pretty well.

"I was trying to set myself today for a big one, but it was disappointing that I didn't go on and I am going to do it in the second innings."