Roach's pace roughs up Ponting
It was hard to imagine that the Kemar Roach versus Ricky Ponting battle could live up to the hype, but it did. That much was apparent from the second ball Roach bowled to Ponting, a short, 146kph delivery that thumped the batsman on the left elbow when he tried to evade it, having attempted unsuccessfully to pull the previous bouncer.
Ponting is one of the toughest men in international cricket, but that ball hurt. He refused to leave the field and batted on for 40 minutes before he eventually succumbed and retired hurt, although scans showed no break to the arm and he was expecting to resume his innings on the second day. It was a fascinating period that justified the pre-match banter between the two teams.
First, Ponting said Roach would be a handful if the WACA was quick and bouncy. Then Roach declared that he wanted to use the venue's famous speed to hit 155kph. Next, Brad Haddin tried to put the pressure back on Roach. The fast man won a minor battle but didn't get the Australian captain's wicket and the West Indies coach David Williams conceded Ponting had the better of the encounter.
"We know for a fact that Ponting, not that he's scared of Roach, respected Roach as a fast bowler who can also hit you in your head as well as hit your edge," Williams said. "It was a keen contest. Ricky I think got the better of him at the end. But at the end of the day it was good for cricket to see a fast bowler running in on a flat deck, bowling to the No. 1 batsman in the world.
"[Roach was under] a little bit of pressure, coming in with all this hype and stuff. He probably bowled a little bit too short and maybe at times a little bit too full but he's a young guy and he's learning quickly."
There was one lesson Roach appeared not to learn during the day: he bowled only four overs, including the one that injured Ponting, with the considerable wind at his back. For the rest of the time he toiled into the breeze, which meant he was hovering in the mid 140kph region and only sometimes ticking into the 150s. It was a decision that amazed Shane Watson.
"I thought that he definitely would have bowled downwind with the breeze going across, because he does swing the ball away from me and into Simon [Katich]," Watson said. "I was surprised that he bowled into the wind with the second new ball as well. As a batsman, facing Kemar Roach bowling at the wrong end was nicer."
Watson questioned the thinking of the West Indies captain Chris Gayle in making Roach work into the wind. However, Williams said it was the bowler's call. "Roach is right now our No. 1 bowler and it's up to him to pick which end he's going to bowl," Williams said. "He chose that end. That was Roach's decision. Normally your strike bowler is going to get the end he prefers and that was the case."
There remains every possibility that the second round of the Roach-Ponting fight will occur on the second day, and this time Roach might decide to switch ends. The blow to the elbow hindered Ponting's ability to extend his arm when trying to pull and hook, and some of his strokes looked more like gentle tennis shots, but Watson was expecting his captain to bat again.
"He got the all-clear with his scans," Watson said. "There's no break in his elbow or anything like that. He's just a bit bruised and battered from the ball that hit him. Hopefully a night's rest will make sure that he pulls up pretty well and he'll be right to go tomorrow morning.
"It was very gladiatorial out there, the way Kemar Roach was taking on Ricky and of course he's never going to take a backward step either. For him to be able to bat the way he did, even for that short period of time before he retired hurt, for him to continue taking him on was brilliant to watch."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo