Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Perth, 3rd day December 18, 2004

Snubbing the quick kill



Ricky Ponting narrowly missed out on his first Test hundred as captain © Getty Images
It's distinctly un-Australian to work a full week when you can celebrate an excellent job in three days and have a rest. But it's not a good idea when you're asking for a pay rise. Perhaps Ricky Ponting's decision to bat on and on and on was a negotiating tool in the current wage dispute with Cricket Australia, proving that their matches can last into the final third and are no reason for a reduction.

After declining to enforce the follow-on, Ponting set the barely-breathing tourists a chase of 564 following a day with a tour-match feel. "Let's give the boys some centre-wicket practice," seemed to be the intention, because if Pakistan reach 200 they should hassle Shoaib Akhtar for directions to the nearest nightclub. Which of their batsmen are capable of adding 250 to the winning rescues of Sarwan and Chanderpaul at St John's, Gavaskar and Viswanath at Port-of-Spain, or Bradman and Morris at Headingley? In their current incarnation they will be lucky to last longer than a Ministry of Sound compilation.

If Ponting, who opted for a similar move as the bowler's bodyguard in the last Test at Adelaide, followed the aggressive instincts of his predecessors the game could have finished today. Quick kills are out of vogue. Instead he allowed his batsmen to oil their joints before Boxing Day and flicked more gunk towards their opponents, who suffered further with injuries to Inzaman-ul-Haq and Shoaib.

Turning 30 tomorrow, Ponting played his most mature knock of the summer, building an innings rather than sprinting towards three figures and stumbling, as he did in both Tests against New Zealand. However, he was cut off two runs short of his first century as Test captain, and first of the year. In the search for topical issues in the absence of a competitive series, talk has turned to Ponting's drought since taking over from Steve Waugh. His form compared to 2003 has been average, tallying 628 runs, but last year he scored three double centuries and an Australian-record 1503, which Justin Langer is doing his best to pass after reaching 1426.

As the statistics piled up, Pakistan must have wished cricket had a baseball-style mercy rule, and the declaration finally came when Damien Martyn breezed to his tenth century. The batting was entertaining and increased to special status by the afternoon, but it was an indulgence. Australia had built a hotel when all they needed to do was blow down a wobbly shack.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo.