Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane November 24, 2010

Ponting still won't put away the pull

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Ricky Ponting isn't giving up the pull and hook shots but he's going to think more carefully about when to play them. That attitude threatens to cause Ponting even more problems than his faltering cross-bat swipes have over the past year.

Hooks and pulls are unveiled on instinct, in the split-second when a batsman judges the difference in length. Adding extra time to consider whether the shot is safe cuts down the moments needed to play it - or avoid the ball. The catch 22 could provide more chances to fine leg or sore elbows like the one Kemar Roach delivered in Perth last year, which eventually resulted in Ponting modifying an approach that has gained him so many runs.

From the moment Roach had Ponting wincing, opposition fast bowlers sensed a weakness. Instead of a solid stance, Ponting became jumpy, even though he remained determined to keep swinging. Pride and programming could not alter his outlook and he fell to cross-bat errors against Pakistan in Melbourne and Sydney, and almost went first ball in Hobart. Age and softening reflexes were blamed for his mistakes along with the painful elbow.

In the off-season Ponting attempted to eliminate the errors but he has opened his summer by pulling terminally against Sri Lanka in an ODI and last week was bounced out by Shane Watson. Watson is sharp, but not express, so by that gauge the England bowlers will be capable of adding further confusion to Ponting's dilemma.

"I have to choose the right ball to play, choose the right ball not to play," Ponting said. "Probably my biggest strength in playing the short balls over the years is making sure I'm playing the shot to the appropriate ball. In the last 12 months I've probably been a bit the other way, been a bit keen to get away and get on top of the short-pitched bowling and got out."

Mitchell Johnson thinks Andrew Strauss's pulling is also suspect so both captains will be ready for bouncers. "I've had to deal with a lot of short balls in the past," Strauss said. "I'm quite happy with my technique against it. If Mitchell wants to let us know their bowling plans a day early that's very kind of him."

Both captains are involved early in the innings, increasing the prospects of a bumper opening to the five-Test contest. Ponting is a master at starting the series with a big score and is particularly effective against England. He has opened the past two home Ashes campaigns at the Gabba with 123 and 196 in the first innings, and also posted 150 in Australia's opening reply to England in Cardiff last year.

"It's to do with the challenge you're confronted with as an experienced player and a top-order batsman and leader of your team," Ponting said. "I've always really focused on making sure that I'm right for that first innings of the series. I feel that I have a big say in how a series develops."

As the one great player in the home side, Ponting needs huge returns to lift his team and also to avoid becoming only the second Australia captain to lose the Ashes three times. "I've worked hard the last eight weeks to be right to go," he said. "Hopefully there's another hundred there for me tomorrow."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Matricfail on November 26, 2010, 14:36 GMT

    Let's face it folks, Ponting is finished. He never started Ashes as lame as he did this time. 10 runs... I mean what the hell?

  • Lees_Legends on November 26, 2010, 7:23 GMT

    @stormzeusah: your 'empire' has been built by tendulkar, dravid and laxman and in the next couple of years they will retire and your empire will perish. sadly. :'( sehwag, dhoni and khan are good players but not great and you'll struggle to win series away from home.

  • Amol_Gh on November 25, 2010, 13:00 GMT

    Sachin has S-I-X centuries in AUS playing at an average of almost 59.00. And he has T-H-R-E-E centuries in SA. Did he achieve that without hooking and pulling? It's impossible.

  • superbindia on November 25, 2010, 12:57 GMT

    Poor Australians...they cant stand the fact that India is no. 1 in tests now...so they try to comment about indians in every forums they can...in the last decade most of the matches that australia played were at home and they had some 'great' umpires like Darrel Hair, Daryl Harper, Steve Bucknor (imported from west indies), to torture the touring teams... the poor opposition were playing against 13...no wonder nobody could win there...even then south africans defeated them in test series and england and india defeated them in one-day series. Srilanka has given thrashing recently with malinga hitting a half century...LOL

  • superbindia on November 25, 2010, 12:39 GMT

    @ MR Hopeless NorthernTerritorian - For your info, the bunch that was bounced out in t20 world cups are the younger bunch who unfortunately do not get bouncy tracks to grow upon, they will learn with time....if you think the bowling attacks of eng and WI were ordinary the current bowling attack of australia is less than ordinary..useless bunch who got hit around even by Ireland in a one day match...And Indians are not going over the moon with india's no. 1 ranking, the fact is you australians can't just digest that and so in a topic that talks about ricky ponting, you unnecessarily bring the indian batsmen....so whos jealous...if you werent jealous why are you even talking about indians in this article...and australians ruling in tests in last decade was due to the fact most of the matches were played in australia and to get an umpiring decision in the touring teams favour is hopeless (99-00 & 06-07 series with india)...dont forget your stupid team is yet to win a series in srilanka

  • stormzeusah on November 25, 2010, 7:31 GMT

    @ NorthernTerritorian....there is an old saying......the grapes are sour......ever heard??????to realize search on youtube the videos of laxman pulling australians off in kolkata..or in sydney in 1999-00....or in sydney in 2004..or of dravid in adelide in 2003-04..or sachin in 1991-92...best innings in australia as they say it...to know how to take off a particular shot if its giving trouble and still excel watch sachin bashing aussies in sydney 2004.....yr "ruling" years...:P we dont go bam -bam over being no. 1...but face it mate...we are....your empire stood on mcgrath..gillespie n warne and sadly......it perished......ponting is a great player but he is now like lara in west indian sides of 1997 till his retirement......one of his kind...with no support....

  • Amol_Gh on November 25, 2010, 6:52 GMT

    I'm an Indian and I know and readily admit that The Ashes is bigger than any other Test series out there. No competition. And I hope...this time ENG send Ponting to the record books for being a captain who lost The Ashes thrice.

  • Amol_Gh on November 25, 2010, 6:47 GMT

    What makes Sachin, Dravid greater than Kallis and Ponting? Kallis/Ponting never had to face their own superb/great bowlers (Donald, Ntini, Steyn, Morkel, McGrath, Lee, Warne Gillispie, McGill). Sachin, Dravid and had to face A-L-L of them. The only great bowler they faced when playing against IND was Kumble and they never had to hook or pull him.

  • hulk777 on November 25, 2010, 6:00 GMT

    @Mark00, When sachin is smart and understands that the age has an influence in playing the attacking shots like pull and controls it, you say he thinks it as "high risk" shot. But when ponting is dumb to realize it and keep playing it and gets out. You call it as his regular shot and he will adjust. Did Sachin say to you that" I am thinking pull is a high risk shot" . Typical Australian, Biased!

  • tough_cool on November 25, 2010, 4:53 GMT

    @NorthernTerritorian - Mixing apples and oranges are you !! aint we talking about tests and specifically about players like RD, SRT and VVS, when did these three play in t20 world cups (2009 and 2010), dont try and use statistics not related to the topic just in order to get your point. You guy have not watched test cricket much if you say any of above three players cannot play pull shot coz they play it as well as any other, as for ponting being best hooker thats only coz he did not face the likes of Mcgrath, Lee, Gillespie etc. He did reasonably well against Ntini from SA, and other medium pace bowlers, but the real express fast bowlers like harmison, flintoff etc, always got his wicket

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