THE futility of Ricky Ponting's argument with the umpires on the second day of the fourth Test in Melbourne was clear. Australia's captain did not seem to know that the burden of proof rested with the referring party for the third umpire to overturn an on-field decison.
Only wicketkeeper Brad Haddin seemed to think there had been a nick off Kevin Pietersen's inside edge. The slips suspected nothing and the bowler Ryan Harris did not appeal. Yet when Hot Spot and the other electronic gadgetry detected nothing, as expected, Ponting claimed there had been a mistake.
England were taking a grip on the game, and the foul-mouthers were exposed as piss and wind. Peter Siddle escaped Cricket Australia censure for his cowardly 'send-off' abuse of Matt Prior after his dismissal in Perth, where Mitchell Johnson's sledging antics went close to unacceptable. So what were the bully boy posers saying while England built up a huge first-innings lead in Melbourne? They were quieter.
Siddle, the only Aussie success in the match at this stage, decided to project his personality to the umpires after the Pietersen decision before Ponting argued long and hard and later copped a heavy fine from the ICC after umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill reported him for breaching the Code of Conduct forbidding players from "arguing or entering into a prolonged discussion with the umpire about his decision".
The ICC said in a statement: "Ponting pleaded guilty to the charge, and as such under the provisions of the code the matter was determined by Ranjan Madugalle of the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC match referee without the need for a full hearing. The match referee imposed a fine equivalent to 40 per cent of the player’s match fee."
Explaining his decision, Madugalle 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 that the discussion went far too long. He apologised for his action and stated that he has nothing but respect for the umpires and that his on-field actions were not intended to show disrespect to Aleem Dar or Tony Hill."
Australian cricket, post Warne and McGrath, is in a dreadful state -- there is little pedigree among the upper order batsmen apart from Ponting and no decent spinner in the country. The pace bowling looked no better than workmanlike on Melbourne's flat pitch. Nevertheless a drawn series remained possible with the final Test at Sydney to play, an outcome against this shower that would reflect poorly on English cricket, Ashes or not.