Favourite son shines in absence of sun

John Polack

November 23, 2001

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There was so lengthy a rain delay that the effect of its batting was largely watered down today. But Australia's assault on New Zealand in this Second Test nevertheless continued on emphatically on the second day here in Hobart.

Generally light but steady drizzle fell at all the wrong times today, contriving to wipe out four hours of play in total in the middle of the afternoon. And then there was a rather farcical end to it all, when the last nine overs were scrapped altogether on account of bad light.

By stumps, New Zealand was 0/0 in its first innings, having not faced a delivery in response to Australia's whopping Ricky Ponting (157*)-inspired tally of 8/558 declared.

The weather eventually forced many among the crowd to head home early. But, in such action as was possible, hometown hero Ponting provided highlights aplenty for the locals as he continued to unfurl a veritable series of copybook strokes. In an innings that delivered the Tasmanian his ninth Test century, the right hander was again assured off both the front and back foot with precious few false shots featuring in his exhibition.

Before a sharp burst of rain hit the ground for the first time at 12:20pm to send the players scurrying, he joined with Shane Warne (70) in a record-breaking stand for the seventh wicket in Hobart Tests. Just to lend some symmetry to the occasion, he then added another new line to the same page upon the resumption at 5:20pm, by combining with Brett Lee (41) in a stand that bettered the pre-existing mark for the eighth.

"It was obviously very satisfying," said Ponting of his first Test century on hallowed home soil.

"Something I've always wanted to do is score a (Test) hundred at Bellerive. There's nothing better than putting on a good performance in your home state. Matty Hayden did it for the first time last week, and I've done it for the first time this week."

Quintessential partnership breaker Nathan Astle (1/30) snared a wicket in his first over when Warne dragged a ball back into his stumps, and he contained the Australians respectably thereafter. And Daniel Vettori (5/138) deservedly collected a fifth wicket when he had a belligerent Lee caught on the deep mid wicket boundary.

Otherwise, another gloomy day for the Black Caps had little to recommend it. It even ended dismally as openers Mark Richardson and Matthew Bell sought the refuge of the dressing room for bad light in something of a scene of high farce.

They, and the Australians, had walked all the way out into the middle, only to saunter all the way back again when Umpires Steve Bucknor and Steve Davis decided that the prospect of Glenn McGrath steaming in with the new ball represented too much of a danger in the conditions.

It wasn't the day's only false start. Twice, the game had been within a minute of re-commencing - at 1:30pm and 2:15pm - when the drizzle mockingly re-awakened after lying dormant for all of the previous half-hour.

It was a relief that Ponting, Warne and Lee were mercifully able to find a way of stifling the tedium.

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