Ricky Ponting was forced to change his pace throughout his fine home-ground century, which put Australia on track for a commanding success
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Ricky Ponting wanted to regain the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy more than any of his team-mates and his determination translated into consecutive centuries as he commandeered a dominant 2-0 series win. Ponting was resting when New Zealand whitewashed Australia in February and his mission of revenge was completed after his 134 not out set up a 114-run victory in Hobart.
His 107 had done a similar job in securing the opening win in Adelaide, but the home team had some tense moments at Bellerive Oval before Ponting arrived to overcome a deceptive pitch. Australia, who had rested Adam Gilchrist, fell to 3 for 87 after being sent in and needed rescuing by Ponting, who steadied and then accelerated on the way to a rewarding total of 6 for 282.
It was far too much for New Zealand, who lost both openers by the fifth over and had half their order gone by 72. Only Scott Styris held firm with 75 as his team-mates faltered against an Australia attack that took advantage of the low-bouncing surface by constantly changing their pace and running their fingers across the seam.
Brett Lee ensured the reply began badly when he out-thought Brendon McCullum, who chased a slow and wide outswinger, and they slipped to 2 for 8 after Jamie How edged Lee to the sharp Brad Haddin. Things didn't improve for the visitors and their batting concerns remain ahead of the Bangladesh series starting on Boxing Day.
James Hopes entered with Mathew Sinclair's wicket with his first ball, an offcutter, which was a delivery copied by Shaun Tait in knocking over Ross Taylor. The score of 4 for 60 quickly became worse when Jacob Oram (2) flicked Hopes to deep-backward square.
On Wednesday Brad Hogg may be back in the Test team and he warmed up with two victims in his opening over, leaving New Zealand in chaos at 7 for 88. Michael Clarke's sharp take behind square leg got rid of Gareth Hopkins on 9, although the television replays provided the usual doubt over ground-level catches, and Hogg also collected Daniel Vettori's edge.
Styris enjoyed some free-swinging, hitting Lee for a trio of boundaries in a row before being bowled by a yorker. The end came at 168 after 34 overs, with Hogg and Lee collecting three wickets each. "They've been a bit too good for us," Vettori said before watching Ponting raise the trophy.
The brightest spot for the visitors is that they can now head home after being out-played by a team that shed the pain of losing the trophy. Before the series Ponting spoke of his desire to grab the prize back and he accepted the responsibility, stepping away from the morning danger with an innings of such hard work that he must have picked up blisters. He stayed till the end - his 133-ball effort included ten fours - and walked off with the knowledge that his team was pretty safe.
After turning 33 on Wednesday, Ponting celebrated with an air punch as he brought up his 25th century in the 39th over, which also included Andrew Symonds' fifty and his lbw dismissal to Kyle Mills. Apart from wanting a big total to secure the victory, Ponting was desperate for a convincing performance so he could watch his greyhound First Innings in Tasmania's biggest dog race after play. He got his wish.
However, the lure could not help him dominate throughout the display, but he produced some wonderful passages before being forced to drop back to take singles. Runs had to be earned and he managed some pulls and lofted drives off the fast bowlers, and a couple of legside sixes from Jeetan Patel's offspin. Symonds provided useful support with a 52 that was highlighted by three fours through point off a Mark Gillespie over and Haddin and Hopes chipped in at the death.
Oram's medium pace had given New Zealand an early boost and he had 2 for 18 off his first eight overs, including the wickets of Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey. Batting on a surface that looked great but was almost impossible to find fluency on, the Australia top order struggled and Hayden, Hussey and Clarke each made terminal misjudgments.
The same problems were copied by New Zealand, but they didn't have a Ponting. They also missed the quality of their opponents' bowling and were particularly hurt by the expensive returns of Gillespie and Patel, who gave away 125 in their combined 16 overs. Australia's attack was much more frightening and frugal, driving the side towards the only one-day or Test trophy missing from its collection.
Ponting deserved to be pleased as he raced for the dog track. "It's been a good couple of weeks to tell the truth," he said. "I feel like I've played okay." He's been much better than that.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo