Bushranger Cameron White plays a shot. Photo: Getty Images
THE first half of Ricky Ponting’s innings against Victoria was assured enough to suggest he was capable of holding his own against South Africa’s renowned pace attack next month.
The second half, however, was dazzling enough to suggest the veteran may not only compete against the Proteas, but dominate them.
Ponting’s unbeaten 162 from 242 deliveries over almost six hours in the Sheffield Shield match against the Bushrangers was his highest first-class score at the MCG since his epic 257 in the 2003 Boxing Day Test against India.
Frustration for Bushrangers paceman Peter Siddle. Photo: Getty Images
It also lifted the 37-year-old’s first-class batting average at the ground over the past 20 years to a superb 67.77. The sprightly veteran’s innings helped lift Tasmania’s first-innings score to a mighty 5-439 declared.
With Victoria to start day three at 4-132, still 307 runs in deficit, the Tigers are in a great position to win outright at the MCG for the third season in a row.
Ponting started the day on 89 and set the tone for his contribution in just the second over. Test teammate James Pattinson’s second and third deliveries were driven straight back past him to the boundary, with the second in particular impeccable for both technique and timing.
When Pattinson sought to make amends by bowling shorter, his elder Test teammate and state opponent used his considerable pace to his advantage by effortlessly gliding him to the backward-point boundary.
It was also off Pattinson that Ponting produced his fifth first-class century at the MCG with a nonchalant leg-glance to the fine-leg boundary. It was in that first hour of the day that Ponting was at his best, scoring 38 of the Tigers’ 46 runs for the period.
The implications of this innings for the Proteas Test series could have been more easily dismissed had Ponting not come into the match off the back of an unbeaten 85 against South Australia, a conclusion Ponting echoed.
‘‘The technical deficiencies that I battled [last year] seem to be a long way away now,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m getting some results and feel like I’m actually on top of batting again. Batting’s starting to feel a bit easier than it did 12 months ago.
‘‘I think any batsman will tell you that if you’re hitting the ball well down the ground it generally means you’re playing well. The shots of old ... were there, the on-drives, the pull shots ... it’s a really good indicator for me that technically I’m in good shape, that I’m watching the ball closely and that my balance is really good.’’
George Bailey’s decision to declare after just 11 overs of the second session was vindicated when Bushrangers opener Rob Quiney was claimed in the second over for five. Chris Rogers set about limiting the damage, with Cameron White at the other end, and did so successfully until he hooked Adam Maher to fine-leg. David Hussey scored 28 at close to a run a ball but he too fell to a loose shot, cutting to point.
White’s final-session departure for a hard-fought but ultimately inadequate 31 reinforced Tasmania’s dominance.