Pressure mounts on floundering Ponting

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> England turned the screws on Australia's embattled leadership with Ricky Ponting's poor form in the Ashes continuing on day 1 of the 3rd Test.

Updated: December 16, 2010 10:00 IST
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England turned the screws on Australia's embattled leadership on Thursday with Ricky Ponting's dismal run of form in the Ashes continuing on the opening day of the third Test in Perth.

The Australian captain and his deputy Michael Clarke both fell cheaply as England's pace attack capitalised on a grassy pitch to have the home side floundering at 36-4 before they fought back to 268 all-out.

Ponting, who had said on Wednesday it was time for him to lead the way with the bat, got off the mark well enough with an edge through a vacant fourth slip from the bowling of the recalled Chris Tremlett for a boundary.

He tried to capitalise on his good fortune, hitting two more boundaries to signal his intent, but was brilliantly caught by Paul Collingwood at third slip off the bowling of James Anderson for 12, having survived just 10 balls.

The ball struck high on Ponting's bat and appeared to be flying wide of Collingwood, but he leapt high to his right to pull down a marvellous one-handed catch.

It meant Ponting, who has refused to drop down the order from No 3, has just 82 runs for the series at 20.50 and he went into the match without a century in his previous eight Tests.

Including Thursday's innings, he is averaging 31.53 in his last nine Tests, more than 20 down on his career mark of 54.08.

Ponting himself admitted this week his future as captain was uncertain, with the Tasmanian facing the potential ignominy of becoming the first Australian skipper to lose three Ashes series, and his batting slump is only adding to the pressure.

Ponting's long-time heir apparent, Clarke, is faring even worse.

He made just four before limply hanging his bat outside off-stump and being caught behind off Tremlett.

The 29-year-old has reached doubles figures just once in the series, and his last eight Test innings have yielded just 130 runs at 16.25, including his 80 in the second innings of the second Test in Adelaide.

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