Australia v India, 1st Test, MCG, 3rd day December 28, 2011

Experienced hands rescue Australia

Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have both been under pressure, but their recovery act, on a day when the other batsmen continued to show frailties, will reinforce the selectors' faith in them

For much of the past two years, Ricky Ponting has appeared to be at sixes and sevens at the crease. At least he's now at 60s and 70s. Ponting is still searching for that elusive, drought-breaking hundred, having not scored one in a Test since January 2010. But his scores in recent times have been more promising: in his past six innings he has made 62, 78, 5, 16, 62 and 60.

A century in the Boxing Day Test would have been one of those moments that lived on in the memories of all present, like Steve Waugh reaching triple figures in the final over of the day at the SCG in 2003. It wasn't to be. But Ponting and Michael Hussey, the two oldest and most under-pressure members of the middle order, did manage to steer Australia into a reasonable position after another top-order collapse.

Hussey finished the day unbeaten on 79. That meant he would not endure a fifth-straight poor Test. At least he was coming off three Man-of-the-Match efforts in the previous series, in Sri Lanka. Ponting's testing patch has been far longer. At 37, lean streaks can be career-ending. As a champion player and former captain, Ponting has been given extra breathing space.

So far, he has retained the support of the Australian selectors, but debate over his place has raged in the media. Positive innings like those he has played at the MCG over the past three days will encourage John Inverarity's panel to keep picking him. And Ponting, who received standing ovations as he walked on to the field in both innings, and as he departed raising his bat, still has the desire to bat on.

"I don't care what people from outside the dressing-room are saying," Ponting said. "If I feel like I've got some support inside the dressing-room, then that's all that really matters to me. I want to do the best I can to get this Australian cricket team back to a higher rank than we are at the moment. I want to be a consistent run-scorer along the way in doing that. I want to do the best I can to win games for Australia. There's plenty of motivation for me.

"Right through the last few months when things probably haven't been going the way I would have wanted, the support from the public has been outstanding. This week it has been really nice, even to walk on to the field for the start of my first innings I got a really loud cheer there, and then to get fifty in each innings, I've got a lot of support from the public here in Melbourne. That's a nice feeling."

Those who cheered him on to the field in the second innings were hoping desperately he could arrest the team's early slide. Ponting came to the crease at 2 for 16. Soon, it was 4 for 27. By then, the day had produced 11 wickets in 43 overs, alarmingly the same number of wickets that fell in the first 43 overs of the second day of last month's Cape Town Test, when 23 fell in the day.

Hussey and Ponting made sure that wasn't repeated. But Australia's batting problems continued all the same. They were the only two men who reached double figures. David Warner, Shaun Marsh and Michael Clarke all played on, perhaps in part done in by seam movement but also by their desire to be attacking. It was the second such dismissal for Clarke in this Test.

Ed Cowan departed doing what he does best, but this time his leave was ill-judged, as the ball was straightening and he was trapped lbw. Brad Haddin, for the umpteenth time, greeted a situation that demanded patience with aggression, lofting R Ashwin into the deep despite the presence of men on the boundary on the leg side. He survived that, but fell soon after, poking at a ball he could have left.

"We've spoken about that and have tried to address it," Ponting said of the side's collapses over the past 18 months. "Most of our batting collapses of late have actually been in the second innings, when we've had games to set up.

"I thought the way Mike approached his batting today when he came to the crease was the way you want to play. You have to show great intent in those situations and you have to be able to counterattack at different times. I though the way Mike Hussey handled that situation today was great."

So was the way Ponting played, perhaps with the exception of a horrible drive at Umesh Yadav, the ball nipping through the enormous gate between bat and pad and narrowly missing the off stump. Wisely, he left the next delivery alone.

He and Hussey made certain there was no Cape Town repeat on this occasion. And for their own futures, as well as that of their team in this Test, they could hardly have chosen a better time to shine.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roo on December 29, 2011, 4:11 GMT

    @VivGilchrist... Yes, I think Khawaja or Christian deserved a start above a recovering Marsh... Still, I expect the selectors looked at his previous record & expected more... But his record is against his SL efforts against their average bowling attack & a failure in SA (though injured in the 2nd innings)... Khawaja's efforts against very good swing bowling looked better while Christian form has been good...

  • Roo on December 29, 2011, 4:10 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas... I was calling for Ponting being dropped 2 years ago... As a captain he was below average, used spinners poorly, his batting average was dropping from near 60 & sliding down, his on & off field behaviour was bad... Nothing has improved since... Even at home his last 6 innings against NZ & India are below his Test average - while much below his "at home" record... Any other batsman would have been dropped for his last 2 years record - Marcus North, Katich were averaging better, yet were dropped... Hussey has been scintillating in comparison yet both he & Ponting were equally responsible for our last Test loss...

  • Basil on December 28, 2011, 23:29 GMT

    I wander if Khawaja or Christian would have scored more than 0 and 3 this match ahead of the rushed back from injury Marsh?

  • Rajaram on December 28, 2011, 23:08 GMT

    Cricket Australia,the Selectors AND the Media have IGNORED the Value of Experience,and are needlessly calling for the sacking of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey. Simpon Katich should NEVER have been dropped. He was the MOST CONSISTENT player in last year.Mike Hussey is the HIGHEST run -getter in 2011. Phil Hughes proved a DIASASTER.David Warner went back to his flashy,impatient T20 ways. So did Shaun Marsh.I hope EVERYBODY acknowledges the VALUE of retaining Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey. Maybe recalling Simon Katich too.

  • Srinivas on December 28, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    @CricLook, well said. Can't agree more. If Ponting were an Indian, we would be having his statues; streets and important junctions named after him; we would be carrying him on our shoulders; free boarding and lodging for him for a life time if he were to be in some kind of trouble; children named after him and whatnot???!!! I'm not hyping it, but I'm deeply saddened at the thanklesness of the Aussie crowd towards Ponting and Hussey. I'm glad at least CA has some gratitude for Ponting. But still, can't understand the way CA puts pressure on Hussey. Mr. Cricket always seems to be playing for his country with an axe hanging over his neck. Now Hussey is dearly protecting the honour of Australia. The two oldies Ponting and Hussey it is for me, as far as I can see. Hussey not only started playing late but he comes behind Michael Clarke which is pretty poor thinking. Wonder what goes on in the brains of some guys at CA and the Aussie Captain!

  • Srinivas on December 28, 2011, 18:36 GMT

    I'm not able to believe my eyes and ears, the way Ponting is turning out to be such a loveable person. I hope he stays level headed the same way and goes out on a high; loved and respected by everybody. The legacy of Legends is not how much you are loved by your countrymen but by cricket following public of the rest of the world. Ponting is surely well on his way to be a good ambassador for cricket. I'm glad, time and form have cut him to size and he must have reflected on many transgressions from his past. It's never late Ricky. Many of us like you. But we want to love and respect you. Believe me. We are that much closer than at any point in your career. Just don't get into any altercations a nut might want to drag you into. Answer the nuts with your bat Ricky. Trust me, many Indians would love to see that because we are used to our Legends preferring to answer with the bat. You sure are from a different culture. But Sir Don and Michael Hussey are from Australia. Isn't it?

  • Mayank on December 28, 2011, 17:06 GMT

    Yep,Punter is showing flashes of his brilliant self.He is not entirely out of the woods though,bcoz if the DRS had been used he would have got out to ZAK lbw,the same way he has been getting out to bowlers in last few series.But DRS is not being used,so he would get to top form by the end of the this series.

  • Md. Rakibuzzaman on December 28, 2011, 15:13 GMT

    The australian critics recognise or not , Ricky Ponting is still the best batsman in the side by far margin than any of the new generation including Clarke. He deserve more respect and honor considering his service to the australian team and the country. If he an indian they will keep him on head like Tendulkar.

  • Srinivas on December 28, 2011, 14:57 GMT

    Part 2: I also want to think that Ishant and Zaheer proved me wrong with their fitness so far in this match. Big up to them and my apologies to them. So, one can't say that Ponting and Hussey counterattacked a below par bowling unit. Ishant was consistently bowling close to 150 KMPH, clocking a max of 152 KMPH; Yadav was always bowling mid to high 140s with probing late outswing; and everybody must have seen the most cunning mind and superlative skill levels of Zaheer by now, unless they are totally blinkered, thoroughly parochial and jingoistic through and through. Ashwin was very tight and testing and it needed immense powers of concentration and superlative footwork to keep him at bay. That's what these two Greats did. So, all the naysayers of Ponting and Hussey, please sit back and concede that you have been forced to eat humble pie. Leave these Greats alone and let them go out on a high. They thoroughly deserve that. BTW, they have lot of cricket left in them. Period!

  • Srinivas on December 28, 2011, 14:55 GMT

    Part 1: Hey Ponting and Hussey, the support you have from the public is not just from Australia but from many Indians as well. I want to ask again, where are the Ponting naysayers? Where are the guys baying for Hussey's blood? First of all, one has to look at the Aussie score-card and realise that Australia doesn't have the batsmen who can fill the big shoes of these two Legends. As an outsider to Aussie cricket, I can't understand why does Hussey always play with an axe hanging over his neck? It's such a shame. His positive innings yesterday has to be seen to be believed, reminded me of the jaw dropping 177 that Dravid got against Srilanka at Ahmedabad in 2009 when India was flat on the turf. I don't know where the naysayers are going to burry their faces. Yes they both were beaten on occasions. But who doesn't get beaten? Dropped catches have been there from ever since. But since when dropped catches are being held against Batsmen? Unbelievable counter attack by the two oldies.

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