Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 3rd day December 3, 2006

Ponting leads Australian fightback

Australia 5 for 312 (Clarke 30*, Gilchrist 17*) trail England 6 for 551d (Collingwood 206, Pietersen 158) by 239 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
How they were out - Australia
Short cuts

Ricky Ponting pulls during his 33rd Test century © Getty Images
Ricky Ponting etched another notch in the history books by becoming the most prolific Australian century-maker of all time, but even his latest magnum opus - an emphatic 142 from 245 balls, most of which came in a 192-run stand for the third wicket with Michael Hussey - wasn't enough to deny England a share of the honours on a compelling and hard-fought third day at Adelaide.

England's hero was Matthew Hoggard. He made two big incisions in the first hour of the day when Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn both swished at imagined width outside the off stump. Then, after serving his time with the old ball, with old-fashioned fields and Geraint Jones standing up to the stumps, he trudged back to his mark with the new ball late in the day, whereupon he dislodged Ponting with the sixth delivery of his new spell, and bowled Hussey off the under-edge of his bat for 91.

For the second match running, Ponting's fury at giving his innings away was visible to all as he kicked the turf and stalked back to the pavilion. As had been the case at Brisbane, it was an admission that his job was far from complete, and left with a tricky hour to negotiate, Australia reached the close on 5 for 312, still 239 runs adrift. Adam Gilchrist was hanging in there on 13 not out, having faced the inevitable round-the-wicket assault from Andrew Flintoff, while Michael Clarke had clipped four determined boundaries in his unbeaten 30.

It had by no means been Ponting's most fluent innings, but his current form is such that all things are relative. This was his tenth hundred in 13 Tests, and his second in three innings this series, to move clear of Steve Waugh (32) and into fourth place on the all-time list of Test centurions. He has now made exactly 1200 runs for the calendar - some distance behind Mohammad Yousuf of course, but with three big innings still awaiting him. By his own admission it was a "scratchy" performance, but on a slow wicket and with a mountain of English runs towering over him, he could be forgiven.

The average mortal might argue with his self-assessment, but he did need one huge slice of luck on 35, when Ashley Giles at deep square-leg failed to time his jump correctly as Ponting swished angrily at a Hoggard long-hop. Moments earlier he had lost sight of an erratic full toss from Steve Harmison that passed harmlessly by his off stump, and he still seemed to be rattled when Paul Collingwood at square leg missed with a shy that would have had him run-out by a good two yards.

Matthew Hoggard took all four wickets on the third day with an outstanding display of bowling © Getty Images
But Ponting endured, and inevitably he flourished, as the menace inevitably went out the attack. Even so, England remained as disciplined here as they had been slipshod at Brisbane, and Harmison in particular was a rejuvenated bowler, as he touched 150kph on occasions, and made life difficult for all the batsmen in his new incarnation as a first-change bowler. James Anderson too had a greater rhythm than at the Gabba, and came excruciatingly close with an lbw shout when Ponting had made 45.

Ponting and Hussey had been brought together at the first drinks break of the day, with their side wobbling at 3 for 65, but the pair were not separated until the second new ball was taken 60 overs later. There was one extremely dicey moment, however, when Ponting tickled a leg-stump delivery for three in Kevin Pietersen's first over, but came within millimetres of running out his partner, who dived for the crease as Anderson's throw came in. Replays implied that he could have been out of his ground, but the vital frame was missing and umpire Steve Davis gave the batsman the benefit of the doubt.

The day's early running had been all England. Hayden was the first of Hoggard's victims, as was the case so often in last summer's encounter. Bowling a wonderfully tight line to the left-hander, Hoggard eventually got his man with a ball that left just a fraction more than the rest, and Jones snaffled a loose waft behind the stumps. And Hoggard struck again right on the drinks break, when Martyn - perhaps unsettled by Jones standing up to the stumps - squirted a loose, flat-footed drive to Ian Bell in the gully, who dived forward and clung on with his fingertips millimetres above the turf.

Short cuts

Highlight of the day
Ricky Ponting's eighth hundred in nine Tests earned him the record of Australia's greatest century-maker with 33. He moved ahead of Steve Waugh with his fine 142.

Recovery of the day
Steve Harmison. Under siege for his lack of control in Brisbane and overlooked for the new ball on day two, he caused a couple of problems as he regained his line. No wickets, but encouragement for the rest of the series.

Dismissal of the day
Matthew Hoggard's clever removal of Damien Martyn. Martyn drove through a couple of short covers for a two, but Hoggard fed him again next ball and watched an edge to Ian Bell.

Lowlight of the day
Ashley Giles' spilt chance off Ponting on 35. If he was just inside the rope, the standard place for outfielders on Adelaide's short square boundaries, it would have been a regulation catch. He was standing ten metres in and was unable to hold a testing chance.

Bravest move of the day
Geraint Jones standing up to James Anderson when he was delivering in the 140s. Jones used the tactic for both Matthew Hoggard and Anderson on occasions and his glovework was clean. The catches of Matthew Hayden and Ponting added to a solid performance.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo