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Clarke pulls no Boxing Day punches

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Watch James Anderson and Michael Clarke's reaction to the first day's play at the MCG

Michael Clarke made no excuses for Australia’s dismal batting on the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test.

The hosts were skittled for 98, albeit in conditions that favoured seam bowlers.

However, their pacemen were ineffective as the sun shone on Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook during an unbroken stand of 157.

Vice-captain Clarke, who top-scored for Australia with just 20, did not try to hide from the fact that his team had endured a nightmare first day.

"We certainly have no excuses; we played some poor shots today and didn't show enough discipline," he admitted.

"As we've seen, when the sun came out it's a really nice wicket to bat on. We're all disappointed - the batters especially."

Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke said: "We certainly have no excuses; we played some poor shots today and didn't show enough discipline"

His only solace was the prospect of four days to save the Ashes in Melbourne, with favourable bowling conditions predicted tomorrow.

“Fortunately there’s four days left in this Test match,” he added.

“So I think it’s really important we come out tomorrow and show that intent.

“Obviously we’ve got to take these first 10 wickets, that’s our priority.

“I think the forecast is for overcast conditions tomorrow, so that would be nice to turn up tomorrow morning and have a bit of that and get this ball swinging around a bit and hold a few catches.

“We have to turn up ready to go tomorrow; we have to take 10 wickets.”

Clarke stood by beleaguered skipper Ricky Ponting, whose run-drought continued today with 10.

"Ricky has been a wonderful leader and an amazing player for a long time," he said. "His record in international cricket speaks for itself.

"He's copped a fair bit of criticism of late - and no doubt he'd like to score more runs, as a lot of us would.

"But there's no doubt Ricky should be the captain of Australia and the number three batter for Australia. Every player in the (changing) room supports him."

Australia coach Tim Nielsen did not try to hide his disappointment at his team's woeful batting effort, which followed impressive innings in victory at Perth.

Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting departs to Chris Tremlett as his barren run continues, much to the concern of Australia coach Tim Nielsen

"Coming off the back of Perth where we thought we played well and got back into the contest, to have such a poor day consistently over the full six hours is disappointing,” he said.

"It's a little bit hard to (explain) - it was just one of those things of the game. But I don't accept being bowled out for 98.

"They caught pretty well everything that came their way.

"The momentum has certainly shifted and we will have to work hard tomorrow to get back into the contest."

However, Nielsen refused to write off his side's chances, adding: "If we get some overcast conditions which have been forecast and if we can bowl a better length … We allowed them to sit back a little bit.

"Our job tomorrow is to ask questions of the batsmen that are in at the moment."

Nielsen admitted he would like to see more runs from Australia’s top order rather than look to Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin.

He also acknowledged Ponting's lack of runs is a hindrance to both player and team.

"It doesn't help him. It's hard work when your team is not going well and being a proud man he would like to contribute more himself," he said.

"He's a strong man. We've got to be clear on how we are.

"We've got to be sure we are all on the same page, we can’t hide the mess we are in at the moment, we have made our own bed."

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