Ricky Ponting's hard-earned lessons from a series of epic jousts with Ishant Sharma a decade ago have helped Aaron Finch to make headway in his battle to prove himself as a Test match opening batsman in Australian conditions.
Few have forgotten Ishant's famous nine-over spell at the WACA in January 2008, where he tied Ponting in knots with a series of prancing inswingers before dismissing him on the way to India's victory. Later that year he dismissed Ponting three innings in a row to help secure Anil Kumble's team a series win at home, leaving Ponting to remark how difficult and different a challenge the then teenaged Ishant posed to him.
Ten years on, Ponting was a notable presence for Australian training on match eve in Perth, acting on observations he had shared with the coach Justin Langer in the aftermath of their opening defeat to India in Adelaide. For Finch, who had been dismissed by Ishant in the first innings of the series and then struggled against him in the second, the advice allowed him to scrap to a half-century, albeit less fluently than his opening partner Marcus Harris.
"It was really good because it was so simple," Finch said of Ponting's counsel. "It was basically around covering my off stump and lining up slightly different my alignment, where I want to hit the ball, with the ball swinging back in obviously.
"Ishant troubled him a little bit at the start of his career in Australia, troubled Punter [Ponting], moving the ball back in I think, so it was good to have someone to chat to who's had to work through that and alignment and things like that. It wasn't anything I went out in the game with as such, it was more just moving my guard slightly further over."
Watching how Finch started his innings as part of a stand that would grow to be worth 112 vital runs, Ponting said he had been able to see how Finch had to find a way to play straighter and not get caught with his head tilting too far to the off side when Ishant moved the ball back in to him.
"I know what Aaron Finch is going through because those were the things I battled through at times in my career as well," Ponting said on Seven during the lunch break. "With balance and maybe getting my head too far towards mid-off rather than going straight down the wicket. I spoke with Justin after the game in Adelaide and he invited me down yesterday. I must admit I'm always a little uncomfortable doing it, but as long as the players are open to it and I can go and feel like I can help out I certainly will.
"It's been a good start from Finchy today, he does get a little bit lazy, you can see his front foot planting towards cover at the back end of that [first] session, he needs to open up his front foot a little bit, look to access the ball to be able to hit down the ground to mid on, but so far it's been a good start, some promising signs."
Reflecting on a lively Perth pitch, which offered pace, bounce, lateral and vertical movement across the day, never more so than when Jasprit Bumrah was armed with the second new ball, Finch reckoned that Australia were now in a position to dictate terms. This was particularly so due to the fact that cracks in the pitch are set to open up and add still further to the variation.
"It's going to be one of those games that'll be a real grind for both sides," Finch said. "The position we're in we would have taken at the start of the day, no doubt, especially winning the toss and batting.
"When the ball starts seaming off good parts of the wicket and quite dramatically at times, I think that's when you know you need to tighten up but you have to also be in a position to cash in on some balls that you can hit, otherwise you get stuck on the crease, stuck in two minds and end up letting the wicket get you out without the wicket doing anything. So you have to be really proactive and take that out of play as much as you can."