Australian cricket skipper Ricky Ponting was last night staring down the barrel of becoming the first Australian captain to lose three Ashes series since Billy Murdoch in 1890, but heir apparent, Michael Clarke, backed him to retain his job at the end of the series.
Exacerbating his woes, the 36-year-old is also in the middle of one of the worst form slumps of his career. His tally in the Ashes series so far is a paltry 93 at an average of 15.5. He has passed 50 just once in the second innings of the Brisbane Test on a wicket that was tailor-made for batting.
Australia's bleak position combined with an ominous weather forecast in Sydney, where rain is expected to fall on each of the five days according to a long-range weather forecast, could mean Melbourne will be the stage of Ponting''s last meaningful contribution as Test captain, Fox Sports reports
Ponting''s grip on the captaincy will become even weaker later this week should Australia fail to stage the miracle required to pull it from the deepest of holes.
Despite his recent poor form, Ponting still has enough runs on the board to warrant a place in the first XI, but against him is the fact Australian captains have in recent times failed to keep their places once shunted from the top job.
Clarke is at short odds to become Australia's 43rd Test captain should Ponting be sacked but the Tasmanian''s long-standing deputy last night backed his skipper to keep his place.