The final day of the 2nd Test belonged to Warne and the dodgy brothers (that’s the umpires and/or the curator – take your pick). Even the man of the match went to Warne but the man of the moment is King Ricky.
You can say what you like about his captaincy. I believe I may have made the odd criticism. I recall that I may even have had some unkind things to say about his mother during the Ashes series. But at present, he is the undisputed king of batsmen. In this Test match, Ponting scored a century in both innings and became just the second man in history to achieve the feat on three occasions (the other being Gavaskar). The amazing thing is that this is the third time this season for Ponting.
It is true that Ponting can go “too hard” at the ball early on and gives chances behind the wicket. And when out of form he falls across his stumps and is susceptible to being given out lbw. He may not have the explosiveness of Gilchrist, the grace of Chappell (GS), the audacity of Richards (either one), the mongrel of Chappell (IM), the footwork of Slater, the power of Pollock (Graeme), the timing of Hussey, the flair of Lara, the magic of Tendulkar or the sheer numbers of Bradman but RT Ponting has all of the above attributes in measures not too far short of the benchmarks. He is the benchmark for on-driving, in my opinion.
In recent years Ponting has been dominant. Since the beginning of 2003, he has scored 5,845 at an average of 70.42. He had a monster year in 2003 with 1503 at 100.2. The year 2004 was quiet (697 at 41.00) – Ponting took over the captaincy at the beginning of 2004 and perhaps that affected his batting adversely. But only temporarily as 2005 saw the plunder of 1544 at 67.13. He continues into 2006 with 557 at 111.4 in just three tests.
But enough numbers. The Australian team may have been a little lucky to squeak home for victory, racing the clock and darkening skies. But it was a well deserved win. They outplayed South Africa in all aspects and in my opinion, are a more robust outfit than they were in the Australian summer. One important change that I believe has come from the Ashes experience, is the characteristic of fighting for runs when the going is tough. This is evidenced in none more than Hayden. It is not compulsory to score at 4 runs per over. Australia’s first innings of 369 took 127 over and one ball. That’s 2.9 runs per over. And that was lifted by Warne, Hussey and Clark – at the fall of the 7th wicket, the run rate was 2.46. If you look back over the past few years, where Australia has batted for 127 overs, they will have scored between 450 and 500 runs. In this Test, they batted first, put their heads down and set up victory.
So it’s another dead rubber coming up, but there has been quite some needle between the two teams and I expect the final test to be keenly fought.