'I thought I had let it slip' - Ponting
Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, has said that he was both happy and relieved after playing a vital innings of 156, which helped Australia to secure a thrilling draw against England in the third Test at Old Trafford.
Ponting denied the England bowlers for seven hours but his epic vigil appeared to have been futile when he gloved a catch to the wicketkeeper, eaving Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath to face four overs from Andrew Flintof and Steve Harmison. But both survived some gut-wrenching moments as Australia hung on for a draw.
"I thought I had let the whole thing slip so the emotions have been up and down all day," Ponting was quoted as saying in AFP. "I had a little tantrum when I got out and sat in the dressing-room with my head down for a while because I thought the game had slipped away from us. It was difficult enough for me batting out there against Flintoff and Harmison at the end," said Ponting whose 156 was his personal best against England, "so having Glenn and Brett subject to it for four overs meant I didn't have a lot of faith in them. But they managed to get through and do a fantastic job once again, as they have all series."
Michael Vaughan, the England captain, said that he was very proud of the way his side had played at Old Trafford. Having outplayed Australia for most of the Test only one wicket stood between England from taking a 2-1 lead in the series. "We were one wicket away from going 2-1 up," he said, "and a lot of people will say 'you must be disappointed' but I'm very proud of the way the team have responded to going 1-0 down at Lord's [where England lost the series opener by 239 runs last month]. Three weeks ago we were written off; we were out of the contest, 5-0 I kept on hearing. It's now 1-1 with two to play."
Vaughan said that he was pleased with how the team had coped with tense situations in the series. "The team and individuals have shown a lot of character. We've got nine days to rest our bodies and minds. We will arrive next week at Trent Bridge fully focused and hoping to go 2-1 up there."
With Ian Bell scoring two fifties at Old Trafford and impressive performances from their bowlers, Vaughan felt that England had a very bright future because of the young talent in the side. "I think this England team can go as far as it wants to. We've shown, in the last two weeks, we've got a lot of character, a lot of ability and a lot of young players in the team which only bodes well for future."
Vaughan added that at no stage during the Test did he think that the match was won. "You can never think you've done it against Australia. There was a time when we took the ninth wicket and you've got four overs to go and you think you've got an opportunity. But those two [Lee and McGrath] hung in very well. I think we really used our resources well this week on this wicket, both with batting and bowling."
While a draw is never as good as a win, Ponting said that he was happy with how the team had rallied and salvaged parity from a grim situation. Rating his innings as one of his best, Ponting said, "That was one of my best knocks, not just a match-saving one. It is satisfying to put your hand up when it matters and do the things the team requires as a batter and as a leader. I don't think a draw ever feels like a win but we worked extremely hard to sneak away. It was a long, hard day of Test cricket and an unbelievable Test match once again.
"We have had to scrap and fight for everything; this is certainly the highest-intensity Test cricket I have played in for the last four or five years and you won't find two better tussles than you have witnessed over the last two weeks," said Ponting. "We haven't done a lot right but they've been unbelievable games."
After being set 423 to win, Ponting admitted that victory had never been a serious possibility. "We thought if we could get through the first two sessions of play without losing many wickets an opportunity might present itself in the last session. If we had wickets in hand we could have had a go at it. We wanted to remain positive and at the end of the day we were only 52 runs away and we haven't tried at all to win that Test match because we weren't in a position to do that."
Australia's batting has looked suspect all series and Ponting said that the performances of the top order weren't satisfactory. "We've had two really good wickets to bat on in our first innings and we've only just managed to get to three hundred both times. That's not good enough. We've got guys who are in good form and look good for short periods of time and they are just getting out. We've got to rectify that. If we actually start finding some form and hitting top gear you'd like to think the results would be slightly different."
Though the game ended in a draw, Vaughan said that England were dominant throughout the Test match and would take a lot of positives from the game. "We've been talking about psychological advantages and disadvantages all summer," said Vaughan. "We can take a lot out of this game. We've dominated four days of Test cricket against the number one team in the world. I don't think we lost any sessions."
Simon Jones, who took 6 for 53 in Australia's first innings, was singled out for praise. "His [Jones'] bowling has come on in leaps and bounds since the Bangladesh series this season, said Vaughan. "To get six for 53 against the Aussies is a great effort."
Old Trafford was packed with 23,000 fans for the match and Vaughan was appreciative of their support. "I couldn't believe how many people were outside the ground. It's fantastic. It does show a respect for the two teams who are playing out there. They are playing good cricket, it's great entertainment and the nation's talking about it."
He said that he hoped that the last two Tests would do justice to the high-quality cricket that's been on display so far. "I really do hope the final two games are as good as the last two because I think the series deserves that. Trent Bridge should be another classic, turn up."