Ponting still top man for Australia, says Warne

AUSTRALIA great Shane Warne insists he fully supports captain Ricky Ponting, adding that recent criticism of him had been meant as “an observation, not an attack”.

Warne riled Ponting by slamming his field placings during last week’s second Test against India, a match they went on to lose by seven wickets, in a post on Twitter.

Angry Ponting responded with a barbed text message, but spin legend Warne has played down the spat and emphasised his endorsement of the current skipper.

“Ricky is the right man to lead Australia for the Ashes,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to show his leadership and captaincy skills. He also looks in super touch with the bat; I am sure he’s going to fill his boots this summer. Commentators on the match, cricket journalists and even the Indian captain, MS Dhoni, have agreed with my tweet. It was an observation, not an attack! Never at any stage did I say or imply that Ricky’s time as captain is up.”

Meanwhile Australia bowler Brett Lee has warned team-mates against attempting to wind up misfiring England batsman Kevin Pietersen, saying the tactic could backfire.

“I’d always back Kevin Pietersen to come out and do well,” said Lee. “There are guys you can stir up and get stuck into and there are others you leave alone. Sachin Tendulkar is a guy you don’t want to chat to period, because he will knuckle down, same as Brian Lara.

“Kevin Pietersen has controlled aggression and he likes it when someone has a chat to him. He takes it personally and it fires him up and he’ll want to score a big hundred.”