Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day

No fairytale for Ponting's finale

There was something fitting about Ricky Ponting's dismissal in Perth; like 17 years ago, a Pakistani umpire silenced the crowd with an lbw decision

Brydon Coverdale at the WACA

December 1, 2012

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Ricky Ponting walks off after his dismissal, Australia v South Africa, third Test, day three, Perth, December 1, 2012
The DRS confirmed that Ricky Ponting had to walk off © Getty Images
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Who needs a fairytale farewell anyway? Don Bradman didn't get the four runs he needed to finish his Test career with an average of 100. It only added to the legend. It showed that he was human. Ricky Ponting, Australia's best batsman since Bradman, has been demonstrably human over the past few years. In his farewell Test, he too failed to deliver the nostalgic innings - in the first innings at least - that the fans wanted. But there the similarities with Bradman's finale end.

For starters, Ponting was all but certain to bat again. He walked off with the score at 5 for 43, after South Africa had made 225. It was the one consolation for the WACA crowd. Bradman's duck, also in the first innings of his last Test, made Australia's total 2 for 117. But England had been dismissed earlier in the day for 52. The chances of Bradman being required again were slim.

Nor had Bradman used a nightwatchman. When Sid Barnes was caught behind on the first day at The Oval in 1948, it was nearly 6pm. Nobody really expected Bradman to walk to the crease. Even Arthur Morris, the not-out batsman, thought he would be joined by a nightwatchman, Doug Ring perhaps, or Bill Johnston. At the WACA, Shane Watson was lbw with 25 minutes until stumps. The crowd stood to cheer Ponting to the crease, only to find they were honouring Nathan Lyon.

After Bradman walked out onto the ground, he was welcomed by a handshake from his opposing captain Norman Yardley and three cheers from the England players. Ponting was greeted by the sight of Spidercam, inescapable and almost intolerable, in his face as he made his way to the pitch. There was no welcome from South Africa; this was strictly business.

"I played the first ball from Hollies, though not sure I really saw it," Bradman later wrote in Farewell to Cricket. The same might be said of Ponting, who chipped his first delivery uppishly towards midwicket, just short of the fielder. Bradman was bowled by his second ball; Ponting pushed his between cover and mid-off and took off for a tight, twitchy single. The tension in his body was clear. There was no relaxed leaning on his bat, even after he got off the mark.

A pull in the next over gave the crowd a glimpse of the Ponting of old. Vernon Philander dropped the ball short and Ponting watched the ball onto his bat, not quite finding the boundary but earning three runs. Was it an omen? Was it a sign that this would be an innings in which Ponting relived his past glories. No. In Philander's next over, the dream was dead.

There was something fitting about the dismissal. Seventeen years ago, a Pakistani umpire was the least popular man at the WACA when he gave Ponting out lbw, four runs short of a century on Test debut. Today, another Pakistani umpire silenced the crowd with another lbw decision.

But back in 1995, Ponting and the fans had reason to be frustrated. Had the Decision Review System been available, Khizer Hayat's call to give Ponting out lbw for 96 to Chaminda Vaas could have been overturned. On the bouncy WACA pitch of the mid '90s, the ball would have comfortably sailed over the stumps. This time, the skiddy Philander trapped Ponting on the knee roll, and Asad Rauf's finger went up.

Ponting wandered down the pitch and spoke to his partner and captain Michael Clarke. Neither man looked confident. But on such an occasion, a review was as guaranteed as the standing ovation Ponting had been given while walking out to bat. Ponting and Clarke, Philander and South Africa, Rauf and Richard Kettleborough all fixed their eyes on the WACA's big screen.

There was silence as the Eagle Eye prediction unfolded. Red lights confirmed what the fans were afraid of. After a moment of realisation, they began to clap. Another standing ovation was delivered as Ponting walked off the field. He trudged past the ring of South Africa players celebrating their wicket. They did not acknowledge him. They had more work to do, and there would be time for farewells later.

Briefly, Ponting turned and glanced over his left shoulder. It wasn't clear if he was looking to the screen for another replay, or wistfully at the crowd, or if it was a more human impulse - like wanting to whack the invasive Spidercam with his bat. But no. That bat would be needed in the second innings. Unlike Bradman, he would have another chance.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by rohanbala on (December 3, 2012, 6:35 GMT)

Great gesture from Smith, the SA captain and his team to a great player when he came in to bat for one final time at the WACA today.. May other teams follow this shining example.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 2, 2012, 4:15 GMT)

I dont know whether Ponting can score at least a fifty and finish off with pride. Cant recall any batsman who retired on a positive note.

Posted by rohanbala on (December 2, 2012, 1:47 GMT)

@Samroy.. If the OZ captain had intentionally prolonged the final over of the 2nd Day's play at Perth with the sole intention of denying a century in a session to SA batsman Hashim Amla, he is wrong and the onfield umpires should have had a word with him about time wasting tactics. However, Amla, I am sure as a thorough professional and committed cricketer would not mind such things and his main intention would have been to ensure that SA do not lose any wickets in the dying minutes of the 2nd day, as there would be no issue in making a century the next day. As @ballonbat rightly pointed out, I hope the Proteas will laud Ricky when he comes into bat and goes out of the playing field one last time.

Posted by RodStark on (December 1, 2012, 23:13 GMT)

As an England fan, I was (unusually for me) rooting for Aus to win this series, which would have set up next year's back-to-back Ashes as another showdown for number one. As it is, it looks like SA can probably sit on the number one ranking for a while as their upcoming schedule looks a little sparse. And I would have loved to have seen Ponting in the Ashes one more time.

Posted by ygkd on (December 1, 2012, 20:48 GMT)

@TheLoneStranger is right. There is a thought-provoking article about the cult of recency and Aus batting greats in The Age in Melbourne (Between You and Me Ponting Isn't Our Second Best). Interestingly, the author starts with Billy Murdoch. Few will have heard of him, but as the author says, when Murdoch stood out of the team for six years, Australia's fortunes collapsed. He was also a capable keeper, but played as a specialist bat because Jack Blackham was even better with the gloves (the first true modern great wk). And all this happened over a hundred years before Adam Gilchrist. History is so often over-looked. Good to see someone with some idea on the subject, for it is the great leveller. And maybe that's why it is over-looked. It is too often at odds with the pressing, inconsidered thoughts of our over-excitable natures. The reality is, and history teaches this over and over again, however good Ponting is thought to be now, the next generation will not care less about him.

Posted by SICHO on (December 1, 2012, 18:35 GMT)

Why should we show sportsmanship when the opposition captain isn't? Clarke single handedly denied Amla a century in a session. Think about that before you start saying SA doesn't show RTP respect. This test cricket, not some group therapy.

Posted by Dhanno on (December 1, 2012, 17:24 GMT)

nice article..second only to bradman amongst australian bats. Ponting was sublime during his peak years (something we are seeing of clarke now). He had to go at some point and suppose he made a right decision. Ponting had a stated goal of reclaiming the ashes in england or help is team in the cause. He should have retired year ago but I gess with clear goal in front of him, he pushed himself another year on. Finally realising he is not standing up to his highest standards, he decided to quit, and there is nothing wrong with it.

Posted by m_ilind on (December 1, 2012, 16:58 GMT)

The pressure of performing in a farewell test for a great player like Ponting is showing on Aus. They are certain to lose this test, unless their inexperienced bowlers can pull something special tomorrow.

Posted by ErangaMahesh on (December 1, 2012, 16:45 GMT)

Only Murali got the fairy tale farewell. all the others are failed. but sad to see Ponty walk off the ground like that. :(

Posted by sixnout on (December 1, 2012, 16:27 GMT)

Much as I dislike Ponting I think this match is probably best set for Ponting. He is one player who plays the big games spot on. Might just be the match he wins for Australia

Posted by handyandy on (December 1, 2012, 13:56 GMT)

Great player but should have retired at the end of the last Ashes series.

Posted by akpy on (December 1, 2012, 13:47 GMT)

mahjut..luck/bad decisions do even out in a long career but it is just the timing with punter and Sachin which makes one feel a bit sad for you want to see these two magnificent cricketers get some runs before they fade away into oblivion..but it is not in everyone's destiny at times..though both are trying very hard as they have always done

Posted by asimations on (December 1, 2012, 13:45 GMT)

Ponting is a great batsman and will be remembered for years to come. I have my serious doubts that he will perform well even in the second innings. I saw him for the while he stayed on the pitch. shaky about his decision of retirement? what was he trying to prove? he needs to show the character. his last innings will neither change the result of the match nor prolong his carrier. he should play daring innings to stamp the end of his carrier. his second innings score I predict will be 4 so sad

Posted by mukesh_LOVE.cricket on (December 1, 2012, 13:03 GMT)

And now that the ponting , lara ,sachin , kallis era is coming to an end ,we can start looking for the next best batsmen and potential greats in world cricket , The way i see it Kevin peterson , Amla , Michael clarke , alastair cook and AB de villers are those ones.. among the young batsmen its bit too early to call but Kane williamson and virat kohli has the potential and temperament..

Posted by mukesh_LOVE.cricket on (December 1, 2012, 12:54 GMT)

A bit sad that Australia finds itself on the verge of losing after dominating first 2 test , but i think the score line would have been different if they had the first choice bowling attack on this WACA pitch , i still don't expect Ricky ponting and Australia to go out without a fight in the second innings

Posted by zarasochozarasamjho on (December 1, 2012, 12:44 GMT)

The Pakistani umpire was proven right this time round by the not 100% acceptable RDS. He would have been proved right 17 years ago too. Pakistani umpires are of exceptionally high standard and amongst the best - historically. Same can't be said of English umpires though. As far as Ponting is concerned, he has nothing to prove - the statistics are there for all to see. He surely is one of the greatest batsmen in history, having played 8 other test teams regularly (BD is not to be included in such analysis), compared to Bradman's three (?), still the greatest batsman purely because of the amazingly near 100% test average.

Posted by PDV1 on (December 1, 2012, 12:33 GMT)

Yes, South Africa should have greeted Ponting in a better way. And then they should have bowled some juicy half-volleys so he can score a 100 in his last game. Why stop there? Let him have a bowl and take a few wickets. C'mon - get real!! He walked in at a crucial time during the deciding Test and the Proteas were completely focused like they should have been. Their reaction does in no way reflect how much they respect Ponting. Graeme Smith only had kind words to say about him during a recent press conference. Anyway, Ponting still has one innings left and I'm sure the Proteas will applaud when he arrives.

Posted by waynecollytaylor on (December 1, 2012, 12:29 GMT)

Fans lookout for pointing second coming in the second innings. He is going to be more determine and resolute in the second innings. This is his last showcase in the second innings and great batsmen strive on digging deeper from inside the inner man. Pointing fits that paradigm, a man of immense resilience.

Posted by mahjut on (December 1, 2012, 12:05 GMT)

i think it's very hard to get retirement spot on and Ponting, like the great Gilchrist, (and it's lookng like sachin is too) has probably stayed a few tests longer than he should've but one can hardly hold it against them. I do wish Ponting a good finale innings but not so big that he eekes out a draw or god forbid pulls a win out of the hat l;ike he did vs SA in 2003

Posted by Mrbalas on (December 1, 2012, 12:02 GMT)

I think Ponting, the competitior he is and always has been would have done the same, he will get his salute come the fall in his second innings, South African players have an immense respect for Ponting, as a South African I would like him to go out on a high, may he score many a run but obviously hoping we win game.

Posted by mahjut on (December 1, 2012, 12:01 GMT)

akpy... just as every batsman knows you need a little luck, they also know it evens out. Ponting and Sachin have had their luck - we all know it! (yes, and some bad luck too ... like Kallis, and clarke)

Posted by mahjut on (December 1, 2012, 11:59 GMT)

the writer is at pains to say that it was obvious Bradman wouuld not bat in the second innings so of course it was fitting to give him a send off when coming in in the first innings but Ponting is not dying, recognition in the second innings will be given and is all that should be expected!!! Moriarty, come on now ... yes they had sessions of dominance but that first team you speak of failed to bowl SA out twice in 2 full tests (and neither did Sa but that's beside the point here)!! otherwise i guess i sort of agree, siddle and hilfy didn't reaslly deserve to lose their place to this lot - sad.

Posted by uapr8 on (December 1, 2012, 11:50 GMT)

I agree with those who say RSA should not have acknowledged Ponting when he came out to bat and again when he got out - to do that is suggesting he won't bat again, an admnission that RSA expect to lose by an innings (or at least 9 wickets.)

Posted by SamRoy on (December 1, 2012, 11:40 GMT)

@rohanbala btw, Michael Clarke denying Amla a century in a session (a feat not achieved since 1974 I think) by changing the field after every ball and taking six minutes to bowl the final over, was not sporting either.

Posted by ballonbat on (December 1, 2012, 11:17 GMT)

I read this with sadness. Yes, it might be strictly business and these are professionals playing a tough game. But cricketers should be gentlemen too. They are role models. Some of these South Africans such as Kallis and Smith have played against Ponting any number of times in different formats of the game. I think it very poor form that they could not acknowledge the second last arrival at the wicket of one of the greatest batsmen to grace the game. Ponting and the game deserved nothing less.

I hope that the Proteas adopt a different approach in the second innings. At least when Ponting walks off the field for the last time, I trust there will be generous applause and handshakes. It's all very well to celebrate his achievements, congratulate him and say farewell over a couple of beers in the changing room after the match. But the game demands a public display of appreciation for this doughty opponent. Come on, Proteas. Do us proud.

Posted by hycIass on (December 1, 2012, 11:13 GMT)

I predict Punter will get a century in the second innings, he is too good of a batsman not to. But we need to get a batsman who helps stop our top order woes once Punter retires and I think Khawaja is the man. 3 out of 5 state talent managers have recommended him to take Punter's spot and its because he has scored runs on some crazy tracks against Tasmania and NSW this year and has the technique needed to bat against quality pace attacks. Watch out for Punter in the second innings, and Aus will get back in the game with quick wickets tomorrow.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 1, 2012, 11:06 GMT)

Rohanbala - the SA players have already paid tribute to Ponting in the press conference and will surely acknowledge him after the test. But this was the first innings of a serious test match, not time for sentimentality, which is the way Punter would like it as he is as competitive as anyone. This has nothing to do with the IPL, this is serious test cricket.

Posted by morriarty on (December 1, 2012, 10:43 GMT)

Almost predictable result ...why would the selectors sack half the team when so dominant in the first two tests ?

hmmm

You can't win with a second eleven against the worlds first eleven.

I am actually quite angry that the original team couldnt have the chance to win against the saffers.

It should have been the original team plus a replacement for patterson. Quiney should have played .Watson should have been left out.This is a team game .Lets have the same team for a series to give them a chance to prove themslves.

The sports medicine people are killing the game...they over train players to the point of being on a knife edge peaking for a game and risking breaking down then telling the selectors they are over done and requiring rest.Absolute drivel !

Who are the best players of recent history ...beefy botham warney kallis booney tendulkar merve hughes ...all class and not over trarined ..I say sack the sports physiology turkeys and lets develop some tough resilience !

Posted by warneneverchuck on (December 1, 2012, 10:41 GMT)

Ponting shud have been greeted in a better way when he arrived for batting in his last test. SA didn't show any respect towards the legend

Posted by akpy on (December 1, 2012, 10:25 GMT)

Genuine lovers of cricket will know that every batsman is tentative at the start and need tiny bit of luck, rub of the green to go their way...if its your time, it runs for you. See amla, Kallis, Clarke in recent times and it is no slur on how well they capitalised on it just like dravid did in WI and ENG tours when he had some catches dropped initially, today Kallis was dropped by Lyon after an amazing catch moments before, amla dropped in almost every recent high scoring innings. Unfortunately for punter (and Sachin) there has hardly been any lucky breaks and this is the beauty of this game. Hope punter gets it in 2nd innings

Posted by TheLoneStranger on (December 1, 2012, 9:56 GMT)

I'm sick of hearing that Ponting is Australia's best batsman since Bradman. He isn't and he won't be. You don't measure a batsman's greatness by the number of runs he gets; you set Bradman aside as being without peer, then examine the runners-up, of which Ponting is but one. Now go through your Wisdens and check out those who have averaged 48 or more, the length of their careers (in matches, not years), and the conditions under which they played. I could name several number threes who I rate as good as or better than Ponting. In my opinion, he should never have batted higher than four, but that's an argument for another day. Check out the credentials of one Sidney George Barnes. His first-class average was 54 and his test average was 63, but because he only played 13 tests between 1938 and 1948, then was dropped for political reasons, he has been largely forgotten. His total number of first-class runs was 8333.

Posted by mikey76 on (December 1, 2012, 8:47 GMT)

Could be a defeat in 3 days for mighty Australia. All talk of a supposed ashes recovery next year back on ice. Take Clarke and Hussey out of the equation and there really isn't much else, the recall of Johnson sums up the desperation.

Posted by rohanbala on (December 1, 2012, 7:12 GMT)

Viewers who saw the TV replays of Punter's debut test (shown over TV again today by Cricket Australia) when he was adjudged LBW to Chaminda Vaas, would agree that he was wrongly given out by the umpire. However, today the replays showed clearly indicated that the umpire Asad Rauf did give a correct decision. It would have been a gesture of real sportsmanship if the SA captain and his team had acknowledged the arrival of Punter when he came into bat. One fails to understand how this spirit is lacking despite the fact that the players from all countries by and large share a great bonhomie when they plan in IPL. Thanks Brydon for sharing memories of the final innings of two great OZ cricketers - the Great Don and the Punter.

Posted by ramli on (December 1, 2012, 6:48 GMT)

It is premature to preclude that Ponting's fairytale is over ... I still hope that he will be instrumental in Aussie victory in this test ... cheers

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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