JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Ponting on ice as Lyon takes heat

AB de Villiers of South Africa bats during day three of the Third Test Match between Australia and South Africa at WACA. Click for more photos

Third Test, Australia v South Africa

Australia seek to topple South Africa as the world's No.1 team in Ricky Ponting's final Test match. Photo: Getty

AFTER a comic case of mistaken identity, the stage is set for Ricky Ponting to put Australia in command of the series decider after he was spared an uncomfortable stint before stumps in his final Test.

Ponting sat in the dressing room chewing his nails as Nathan Lyon was sent out as a nightwatchman with 5.5 overs left in the opening day of the Perth Test.

After Ed Cowan was dismissed for a duck and Shane Watson was given out lbw to Vernon Philander after a protracted review process, the WACA Ground crowd got to its feet to applaud Ponting as, they thought, he walked out for his penultimate innings. Even his wife, Rianna, stood up, unable to hide her nerves until she belatedly realised it was the unassuming off-spinner and not the champion batsman, who was walking out to face Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Philander for the final overs of the day. "He [Lyon] uses a Kookaburra bat but that is probably the only similarity," said debutant John Hastings after Lyon (7 not out) survived with David Warner (12 not out) to take Australia to 2-33 at stumps.

Not Ponting: Nathan Lyon walks out to bat on Friday.

Not Ponting: Nathan Lyon walks out to bat on Friday. Photo: Getty Images

Australia's top-order wobble means much will depend on Ponting, whose tentative starts have produced just 20 runs for the series, and he can thank Lyon for shielding him from the attack that has dominated him of late.

" 'Gaz' [Lyon] is a pretty funny fellow and he made it known he was pretty nervous, but I think he did a great job," Hastings said afterwards.

Lyon's staunch protection of Ponting was in keeping with the team's determination to ensure the 37-year-old former captain finished his career with a win, which would mean toppling South Africa as world No. 1.

Propelled by Ponting's retirement announcement on Test eve, Australia's all-new pace attack made a good start, reducing the Proteas to 6-75 before bowling out the touring team for 225. "It's been a pretty emotional few days for everyone. Ricky is such a legend, I've been lucky enough to play a few one-dayers with him and have him as my captain for a couple of games, too. It is the end of an era and I don't think we will actually know what we've lost until he's gone," said Hastings, who nicked out A. B. de Villiers to celebrate his maiden Test wicket.

"His presence in the change rooms is absolutely phenomenal, just his knowledge of the game . . . It's a massive motivation and the boys will use that over the next few days to try to get the result we want."

Though there was no explicit call to "do it for Ricky", Hastings said there was an unspoken desire to mark the end of Ponting's career the appropriate way. "We haven't spoken about that as such, but everyone knows it's his last game and we will be pushing as hard as we possibly can to get that win for him."

Hastings said the pitch should flatten out on day two, providing an ideal stage for Ponting to compose a fairytale farewell at the ground where he was denied a century on debut by a controversial lbw decision 17 years ago.

"I think the wicket will get better and better. I played here in a Shield game earlier this season and the wicket hardened up on day two and started to get a bit of carry and a bit of pace in it," he said. "It will be a new-ball wicket with the grass coverage on it, but if we can bat well for half an hour or an hour I think it will flatten out nicely."

 

Related Coverage

R Ponting. Third Test, Australia v South Africa

Australia seek to topple South Africa as the world's No.1 team in Ricky Ponting's final Test match.

Proteas struggle with Mitch factor

Mitchell Johnson dusted off his WACA cape and reminded everyone that his best is very, very good.

Bowling gamble pays off

Australia's farewelling of Ricky Ponting could hardly have begun better.

Stealth fighter aims for the top

Day two of the Perth Test marks the first anniversary of Mickey Arthur's Australian coaching debut.

New-look attack lets loose on Proteas

THE tears wiped from their cheeks, Australia's farewelling of Ricky Ponting is off to a start they will happily take. Emotional wrecks a day earlier, having been herded into a hotel meeting room and told by the veteran of his impending retirement, Michael Clarke's brand-new attack left sentiment aside to leave South Africa with heads in hands in the deciding third Test.

Weighing the time to declare

As a young man, he watched as a teammate, a grizzled veteran, announced his retirement.

Featured advertisers