Out of the Ashes came Ponting's finest performance

Martin Smith November 29, 2012, 6:25 pm


Such were the ups and downs of Ricky Ponting's career, it's appropriate that his greatest achievement as a batsman came during one of his darkest hours.

So many of Ponting's finest moments came as part of a winning team on home soil. Time and time again, he would lead a dominant Australian side to crushing victories in front of an adoring home crowd.

But the performance that will linger longest in my memory came deep in enemy territory, in the wee hours of a cold August morning and with his country in serious trouble.

It was Manchester, 2005. Day five of what had already been a remarkable Test match.

As many Australian fans did during that famous series, I had curled up on my couch almost every night to watch ball after ball of the most enthralling cricket I had ever seen.

The once-dominant Australians were a shell of their former selves at Old Trafford, staring down the barrel of another defeat and a 2-1 series deficit.

Set 423 to win, their slim chances of victory were quickly dashed when they lost five wickets before tea on the final day.

With a raucous home crowd at fever pitch, Australia's attention turned to somehow saving the match and heading to Trent Bridge with the series level.

Choosing cricket over some much-needed sleep, I had watched Ponting survive the early onslaught with a combination of rock-solid defence and some audacious stroke play.

It was the perfect No.3's innings, but there had been some nervous moments. Several loud LBW shouts had left me and many other Australians half a world away holding our collective breath.

But I knew, as I'm sure England did, that Australia's slim chances of survival were still alive with our skipper at the crease.

With the clock in my lounge room approaching three in the morning, Ponting reached triple figures when he caressed a Stephen Harmison slower ball to the cover boundary.

Unlike his previous 22 Test centuries, there was no over-the-top celebration. Ponting stood still in the middle of the pitch with his arms aloft, his bat in one hand and his helmet in the other.

His face showed the strain of a series that had not gone to plan.

A mark on his cheek was a reminder of a vicious Harmison bouncer in the first Test, which had drawn blood.

There was no hint of a smile. Instead, Ponting's face was almost one of anger, of defiance and knowledge that the job was only half done.

Looking back on a remarkable career, that innings and that moment sums up Ricky Ponting for me.

It wasn't perfect. But with his team crumbling around him, there he was; standing tall amongst the rubble, leading the way with determination and a touch of class.

There hasn't been many better sights in the modern game than Ponting in full flight. But this innings displayed what I believe to be his greatest quality; sheer bloody-minded determination.

Ponting was dismissed with just four overs to go on that incredible day, inexplicably caught down the leg side for 156.

Much like his glorious career, it was an innings that deserved to end in a more elegant manner, if indeed it deserved to end at all.

And much like his exit from the game, Ponting lingered upon being dismissed. He didn't want it to end, but he knew his time had come.

Australia managed to salvage a draw in that match but would eventually lose the series, one of three Ashes defeats Ponting would suffer as skipper.

It was a blot on a career that will see him remembered as Australia's best batsman since the immortal Donald Bradman.

And with the world No.1 ranking on the line in Perth, how Australia would love one last moment of Ponting brilliance this weekend.

Follow @martinsmith87 on Twitter

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4 Comments

  1. the owl02:39am Saturday 01st December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Inspiring and passionate piece of journalism !!! My money is on ricky to defy the odds and knock up a double ton , sounds crazy i know but that 's what this fine player and proud aussie can produce when our backs to the wall !!!!

    Reply
  2. polecat04:26am Saturday 01st December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Ponting, like Australia, a failure. A failure as a man and a failure a sportsman. Your typical short #$%$ Aussie bogan.

    Reply
  3. robert10:01am Saturday 01st December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Even if he goes for a duck today,we've still got those great memories of what a great player he is.He is one of our greatest and always will be, and no one can take that away from him.

    Reply
  4. wan08:10am Monday 03rd December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    This is the skipper who, by poor decisions, lost the ashes three times. I'm no fan or Ricky as an Australian captain, but he's been a great fielder & a spectacular batsman on his day.

    Reply

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