Travis Head equals Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke amid debate over first Test gong

The batter was named player of the match, but many were saying one of his teammates should have got it instead.

Travis Head, pictured here alongside Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting.
Travis Head equalled Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting with a unique slice of Test cricket history. Image: Getty

Cricket fans are debating the decision to award Travis Head player of the match honours after the first Test against the West Indies, with many believing Josh Hazlewood was hard done by. Head got the nod after his sensational knock of 119 in the first innings in Adelaide, which came off just 134 balls.

Head was one of just three Australian batters to make more than 15 in their total of 283, with Usman Khawaja (45) and Nathan Lyon (24) the others. It was a remarkable knock considering how difficult the conditions were for batting, with a grassy pitch providing plenty of assistance for the pace bowlers.

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"It was challenging through parts," he said after getting the gong. "So lucky that a bit of experience came in good stead. Nice to get some runs in front of a great crowd. It was nice to spend four or five days at home leading up. I'm sure everyone will enjoy this afternoon even though there's no cricket. The sun is out."

Josh Hazlewood, pictured here after taking nine wickers in the first Test against the West Indies.
Josh Hazlewood took nine wickets as Australia thrashed the West Indies in the first Test. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The tricky conditions were illustrated by the fact the West Indies only made 188 and 120. Hazlewood was the chief destroyer for Australia, taking 4-44 and 5-35 for career-best match figures of 9-79. He was cruelly denied his first 10-wicket match, but many thought he was more deserving of player of the match honours.

Nathan Lyon was among them, with the off-spinner cheekily suggesting his fellow bowler was snubbed. "Trav got 100 runs and then got out slogging," he told the ABC. "That's like taking three wickets and saying, 'I'm not bowling for the rest of the day'."

Travis Head equals Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke feat

Head is fast becoming one of Australia's best attacking batters in Test cricket history, with his rapid century on Thursday putting him in some elite company. It marked the sixth time he has scored a Test hundred with a strike-rate over 75 - the same amount that Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke achieved.

In Australia's Test cricket history, only Adam Gilchrist (15) and David Warner (19) have more. Making Head's runs even more impressive is the fact they have consistently come with Australia in some trouble.

The five centuries he has scored since returning to the Test side in 2021 have come with Australia three down for 12, 67, 76, 131 and 189. "It's just fell that way I think," Head said. "Batting five it's like, if we're flying it's probably my role is a bit different where I'd probably be more aggressive and take it on.

"So you may not see bigger scores. But when we're in positions that we are in, I've got to bat a bit longer. I'm happy for it to keep going."

Travis Head, pictured here after winning the player of the match award.
Travis Head speaks to Brendon Julian after winning the player of the match award. (Photo by Mark Brake - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images) (Cricket Australia via Getty Imag)

Travis Head back with a bang after quiet Pakistan series

Head was quiet by his standards in the 3-0 sweep of Pakistan, but started with a bang against the Windies. He walked to the wicket early on day two with Australia just 3-67 in reply to the tourists' total of 188.

The Aussies were then teetering at 5-129 before Head launched an extraordinary counter-attack, helping the hosts claim a 95-run first innings lead. His last 49 runs came off just 34 balls, and he finished with 12 boundaries and three booming sixes.

In positive signs, Head took a liking to some short-pitched bowling after seeming to struggle against bouncers throughout his time in the Test team. "I played the short ball a lot better today than I did everything on the front foot," he said.

"I felt like in England I had the front foot under control and not so much was in control (against the short ball). I feel really good at the moment picking length up. Where in England I felt like I was off the mark with picking the length up. You just move in and out of tempos, the way you bat."

with AAP

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