Ponting prepared to chase
Option one for Ponting is to create a lead and then pray for a quick kill, but early losses would increase the likelihood of a declaration, leaving Andrew Flintoff to set a target. "If there's something there to chase we'll have a go," Ponting said. The pitch has shown few signs of variable bounce and even though Ponting believes Shane Warne can take advantage in the final innings, the prospects of either team falling in a heap are remote.
"The first hour will be crucial and if we get a good partnership then from there we could get back in the game," he said. Michael Clarke (30) and Adam Gilchrist (13) are the unbeaten batsmen after Ponting and Michael Hussey re-floated Australia when they fell to 3 for 65.
Ponting steered Australia with 142, bringing up a national record of 33 centuries, but he benefited from a couple of tight calls, including a dropped catch from Ashley Giles ("I thought I hit it well enough to get over him" at deep square-leg) and a missed run-out from Paul Collingwood ("I would have been gone by a good couple of yards"). As Ponting continues to remind everyone, he is not a man who carries statistics in his kitbag. It might change when he stops playing, but until then he is "out there to play the situation".
Getting him to talk about his innings of 12 fours and 245 deliveries was also difficult. He had a piece of grass in his eye for a ball during the first session and for periods of the day he batted a yard out of his crease, a tactic he blamed partly on his caught-behind dismissal to Matthew Hoggard. "I probably shouldn't have been that far out for the second new ball," he said. "It went away a bit, but if I was in my crease I probably wouldn't have edged it.
"I wasn't really satisfied with my innings. Getting through the second new ball was important and we had a really good partnership going and were clawing our way back." Ponting's stand with Hussey totalled 192 and his partner joined him in the dressing room seven overs later when playing-on to Hoggard. It was the second time in consecutive innings Hussey had slipped in close range of a century, adding 91 to his 86 in Brisbane.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo