Australia v New Zealand, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day December 2, 2011

Ponting rides on luck towards recovery

Ponting had several fortunate moments on his way to an unbeaten half-century that could be the trigger he's been waiting for to revive his form

Ricky Ponting had not yet scored when he survived an lbw shout. He had not yet scored when he should have been run out. He was 20 when an edge onto the pads popped up to where short leg might have been. He was 34 when a hasty call for a single ran out Usman Khawaja. He was 63 when another tight lbw appeal was survived, this time after consultation with the DRS. And he was 67 when he walked off the Gabba in the company of his captain Michael Clarke, unbeaten at the end of day two.

Luck, providence, good fortune. Whatever it may be called, Ponting found it in Brisbane against New Zealand, and travelled on its coat-tails to the outskirts of a first Test century for 23 months and 28 innings. Much like the important 62 he had made against South Africa to give Australia's fourth innings chase a start in Johannesburg, this was not vintage Ponting. But it was a less star-crossed Ponting than the one who has cussed all manner of odd or questionable dismissals as he has fought to keep his fading career from being snuffed out completely.

The first notion that Ponting might be a batsman susceptible to swings of outrageous misfortune took place in 2005 at Trent Bridge, when he was run out by the England substitute fielder Gary Pratt as Australia tried desperately to stave off the loss of the Ashes. Ponting took issue with Pratt's presence in place of a resting fast bowler, and pondered what might have been. Other run-outs took place, notably at The Oval in 2009 and at Mohali in 2010, each time Ponting the non-striker and each time the victim of a direct hit. There have been freakish catches: think Paul Collingwood at the WACA ground in December 2010 .There have also been debatable verdicts, like the Jimmy Anderson lbw or slips catch - some are still unsure what - at Lord's in 2009.

Of course, such dismissals have been in the minority, next to the firm front-foot press and edge into the slips, the falling-across-the-crease lbw (a recent favourite), the hook shot to oblivion, and the brain fade against the opposing spin bowler. Yet it is difficult to escape the notion that Ponting has considered himself to not be playing badly, simply getting out. Trenchant responses to questions about his place in the team, upon returning from South Africa, are testament to that.

A neat measure of Ponting's helping of luck at the Gabba arrived via the fates of the batsmen at the other end. David Warner, on debut, swayed away from a short ball but not far enough to prevent Tim Southee from touching his gloves on the way through to Reece Young. There was little misfortune about the fact that Phillip Hughes was caught in the slip cordon - it has happened far too often to be deemed an ill-event - but more about the rasping low catch held by Martin Guptill. And Khawaja, referred to more than once as the man to occupy Ponting's place in the Australian batting orders of the future, was far more sinned against than sinning when Ponting called him through for a run that was barely there at first, and not there at all once Kane Williamson had under-armed the stumps down.

The wastefulness of that dismissal, and its age-old negative implications for the batsman who survived it, was not lost on Ponting. He had, after all, been there quite a few times himself in recent years. Four balls later, he leaned into an extra cover drive from the bowling of Chris Martin that was as delectable, if not violent, as any stroke he has played since his first Test in 1995. Others would soon follow. The pull shot was played with a roll of the wrists to keep it down, a back foot punch skidded between cover and mid off to raise 50, and a pair of cuts off pace and spin took advantage as the visitors' bowling grew unaccountably generous.

Generous too was the marginal no-ball that allowed Clarke to keep batting with Ponting, having dragged Doug Bracewell onto the stumps. Quite apart from their postures as captain and predecessor, Clarke and Ponting desire more frequent partnerships. Their last of any great note in Tests took place the last time Ponting made a Test century, a double against Pakistan in Hobart in 2010. "If you look at the way we play fast bowling and spin bowling, it's probably vastly different," Ponting said in August. "Michael tends to use his feet against the spinners a bit more than I do, and we both probably play fast bowling a little bit differently as well, so if you sat back and looked at it that way, you'd think we'd be a very successful partnership together, but so far it probably hasn't been as productive as we would have liked. Hopefully that changes in the next couple of years."

At the close, brought ludicrously early by the kind of bad light adjudication that would preclude almost all Test cricket at Headingley and quite a lot in New Zealand, Ponting was 33 runs from a century, though considerably further short of the type of score he will be envisaging for himself and the team he once captained. He was happy to be batting with Clarke, and together the lucky duo have the chance to bury New Zealand at the same time Ponting's batting is revived.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Damien on December 3, 2011, 11:58 GMT

    Ponting may have lost 3 Ashes series as captain, but how many test series have India won in Australia? In fact, how many test matches have India won in Australia?

  • Damien on December 3, 2011, 11:49 GMT

    @Deepak Sharma, I like your selective memory. I'm fairly certain that Tendulkar's future in Test cricket was being questioned mid 2009. And he had an extended form slump, similar to Ricky Ponting's, from end 2005 through to the beginning of 2007 when he was averaging only 25. For most of Brian Lara's career, the West Indies were so bad that even Lara out of form was better than most other players in his team, and he had several extended periods when he averaged less than 30. The only reason his overall average is so high is because when scored a hundred, he usually scored a really big hundred. Kallis is one of the best all-rounders of all time, so when he's not scoring runs, his place in the team isn't questioned because he's also a very good bowler. And Dravid was under pressure to keep his spot in the team at the end of 2008, having gone 19 innings without a century and averaging only 18 in that time.

  • Dummy4 on December 3, 2011, 6:39 GMT

    He has been lucky all his career. He was just gifted with legendary team-mates.

  • Shanmuga on December 3, 2011, 6:28 GMT

    @Ashish Gupta Rohit played well against Lee in the last downunder finals. He may not become like Sachin but he is much simailar to Yuvi n in Tests he can become someone like Jayawardene!

  • Shanmuga on December 3, 2011, 6:23 GMT

    @Sanoj Vasudevan

    Cool dude it doesn't matter who scores when Rohit scores; Everyone knows that how good Rohit was! Brilliant stuff! He is the definite no.4 after Sachin in Tests. In ODIs he is much similar to Yuvraj and thats it! Nothing more to explain of his greatness!

  • Dummy4 on December 3, 2011, 4:52 GMT

    Ponting is a plunderer against mediocre or even above average bowling. But has never been too 'great' against 'great' bowling. He was lucky that the only great bowlers during his plundering days ( 2002 - 2006 ) were in his team. He has been a very good batsmen. But just a notch below the likes of Tendulkar and Lara, whose prime periods were against the likes of Akram,Waqar,Donald, McGrath, Warne ( and Ambrose, Walsh , Steyn for Tendulkar ). Matty Hayden was a similar plunderer who made hay in the period when bowling was just good but not great. Remember he first played in 95-96 and got dropped. Well, because the bowling then was just too good for him. Then he came back after 2000 and started plundering. In current batsmen, Rohit Sharma has similar talent,( though only above average bowling often proves to be enough for him). He could improve and be another Ponting if he doesn't face Steyn much and no great bowlers come around during his tenure.

  • Deepesh on December 3, 2011, 3:56 GMT

    @deepak sharma: you got 2 b kidding mate! Every indian cricket lover seem to be disrespecting Oz players but d fact is "INDIA never reached no. 1 test ranking" when you so called 'FAV 4s' (SACHIN, GANGULY, DRAVID, VVS) were playing together! You try to boast yourself but punter waz present whenver and wherever Oz won during last 15 years. You got to know this fact mate!

  • aditya on December 2, 2011, 23:44 GMT

    Ponting is warming up this series, just waiting for 'super' Indian bowlers to arrive .. saving his big hundreds for them :)

  • Nitin on December 2, 2011, 20:31 GMT

    Decent player. Comes on 56th in my list of all time greats.But selfish act today.

  • Dummy4 on December 2, 2011, 19:32 GMT

    @popcorn King? Khwaja was obviously better today, and Ponting needs to score consistently to be back.

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