Top Performer - Ricky Ponting

In the shoes of Bradman

In the haze of Australia's failure to enforce the follow-on in the first Test it was easy to lose sight of the brilliant quality of Ricky Ponting's batting

Peter English

November 29, 2006

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Powerplay: Ricky Ponting opens up at the Gabba during his 196 © Getty Images

In the haze of Australia's failure to enforce the follow-on in the first Test it was easy to lose sight of the brilliant quality of Ricky Ponting's batting. Even Ponting was happy to deflect the attention. So many issues - the start of the Ashes, Glenn McGrath's return, batting again, Stephen Harmison, the display of England - overpowered his double of 196 and 60 not out, but his opening to a series that will define him was extraordinary.

Ponting the batsman is virtually untouchable. England tried to get close, failed, had another go, suffered more punishment and finally broke him via Matthew Hoggard. With another four runs Ponting would have become Australia's second greatest double-century maker behind Don Bradman. The milestone will have to wait.

On the first day of the match he breezed to a century from 136 balls, whizzing around the Stanley Street end stumps in a charge of glee to mark his arrival at three figures. He had won the toss, but with this innings he made a statement about taking the game and the series. It was no longer 2005 and Australia wouldn't be pushed around and suffocated. Driving and pulling, clipping and running, he grabbed the reins from England and rode them hard.

During his collecting he passed 9000 Test runs and only Steve Waugh and Allan Border stand above him on the Australian list. He also joined Waugh's 32 centuries and his career average of 59.52 is more than eight runs better than both of his former team-mates. Enough of the easy ratings. The Gabba double moved him to 940 points on the ICC's computer-controlled Test batting rankings, a number beaten only by Bradman, Hutton, Hobbs and May in the history of the game.

The statistics don't bother Ponting and the records don't excite him

The statistics don't bother Ponting and the records don't excite him. "It's nice," he said of joining Waugh, "but what's even nicer is we're 3 for 346 at the end of the first day." Talk of his breath-taking batting had finished.

Discussions about Ponting's place in the overall pecking order won't stop and during the game he was called the best since Bradman by Waugh. His play is incredible, a menu of daring, composure, extreme skill and purposeful strokeplay, and the comparisons are credible.

In his past 52 Tests, the same number Bradman played in his entire career, Ponting has scored 5813 runs at 74.52 and deserves every mention in the same breath as the Don, who produced 6996 at 99.94. Only a back injury, suffered while turning to his crease after backing up, hampered Ponting in the second innings as he pounded England some more.

Smooth operator: Ricky Ponting uses his feet to take advantage of England © Getty Images

He says
"It didn't have anything to do with the last series or anything. It was all about getting out there and doing it and getting off to a good note in the series. It's a good start for us." Ponting downplays the joyful celebration for his century on day one

They say - Mike Selvey, The Guardian
"He was solidity itself in defence, an object lesson in footwork, and merciless through midwicket, his great strength. But he pulled emphatically too, drove down the ground, and plundered through the off side off the back foot."

They say - Peter Roebuck, Sydney Morning Herald
"He hardly missed a ball, hardly endured an appeal, edged a stroke or misjudged a run. It was a masterclass, an expression of skill and willpower, and also a message to his opponents: England have a fight on their hands to take his wicket, let alone to retain the Ashes."

Stats amazing
If Ponting continues to score at the rate of the past three years, when he has averaged 71.5, he will pass Allan Border's Australian-record mark of 11,174 within 30 innings.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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