Melbourne: Australia opener Shane Watson conceded on Tuesday that his team has lost any chance of winning the Ashes, and even a series-levelling victory in the fifth Test at Sydney would do little to make up for it.
"Obviously we`ll do all we can to restore pride and try and draw the series, but in the end the most important thing is winning that little urn, and we haven`t been able to do it." Watson said after another disappointing Australian batting performance put England just a few wickets away from retaining the Ashes.
Watson top-scored with 54 as Australia slumped to 169-6 chasing 415 runs with two days still to play.
"It`s very shattering to be in the position we are now," he said. "From playing so well in Perth and feeling like we were a big chance of being in the series and winning the Ashes, to be in the position we are after our poor performance."
Watson, one of the more consistent players for Australia this series, said it was a "horrendous" prospect to face becoming the first Australian side to lose an Ashes series on home soil since 1986-87.
"Going into this series we knew how important it was going to be to win because Australia hasn`t lost the Ashes in Australia for 24 years," he said. "So we knew if we didn`t win the Ashes it was going to be very disappointing for us personally to be involved in that type history."
Australia captain Ricky Ponting has come under intense pressure this series after failing with the bat, and has borne much of the blame for Australia`s poor performances. Ponting made just 10 runs in Australia`s disastrous first innings of 98 in Melbourne, and only managed 20 in the second innings today.
Watson defended his captain, saying Ponting is not the kind of player who needs extra encouragement from his teammates.
"He`s been there and done so much throughout his whole career," Watson said. "He`s a very, very tough man mentally, as he`s shown throughout his whole career.”
"Everyone is, and will always, be right behind Ricky. He`s been a brilliant leader for us and I`ve been lucky enough to be around while he`s been leading the Australian side."
Watson was confident Ponting`s slump in form was temporary.
"Unfortunately it hasn`t been the perfect time for him on the runs side of things, but it`s definitely not far away. He`s such an amazing player and with a few things going his way he`ll be able to turn it around," he said.”
"He`s a brilliant leader. He`s as tough as they come mentally. It`s unfortunate he hasn`t scored as many runs as he would have liked, but no one will ever question his ability to lead the group."