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Brett McKay


Clarke, Ponting cash-in

05 January 2012

Don’t you love it when hopeful predictions turn prophetic in their accuracy?

At the end of Day 1, I wanted Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting - both in the 40s at stumps - to “cash in on their impressive starts.”  Thank you, that’s one.

But I took it further, didn’t I, portentously offering that “Already good batting conditions that have yielded the current 79-run partnership will only become better on Day 2.”

It was, in hindsight, a rather big call considering my complete lack of first-hand knowledge of batting on the Sydney Cricket Ground.  However, I’m claiming it, and just how good did the batting conditions become.

Of course, Clarke and Ponting were greatly aided by their opponents.  As soon as the Australian pair saw off the openers in the first hour, the Indian field placements started relaxing, the fielding itself became at times lazy, and the intensity dropped almost as quickly as did the heads.

It was officially time to cash in.

Clarke won the race to 50, bringing it up off the second ball of the day.  Ponting would follow in the fourth over, and soon both would start laying into the Indian bowling as the ball stopped moving. 

Signature shots were lining up not just to be payed, but played at will.  Boundary signage was peppered as the middle of both bats were being found with monotonous regularity.

Clarke was playing his pull shot particularly well, but the booming cover drive was his method of kicking Indian hopes while they were down. 

The more the ball stayed pitched up, the more he was happy to oblige rocketing drives toward the Brewongle Stand or the old Hill.  The security people on those parts of the fence did more fielding than some Indian players.

For Ponting though, it was the happy return of the pull shot.  To be fair, the pull shot had been back to varying degrees during all Tests of the Australian summer so far and his back-to-back fifties in Melbourne last week both contained good signs that the pull was back.

However, it wasn’t being played through mid-wicket like in this innings.

That’s always been the signal that Ponting is batting well.  When mid-wicket has to chase a Ponting pull shot to his left, the former captain is really nailing them.

It was all there to see on Day 2.  The rock back, the swivel, the rolled wrists, the token setting off for the run as it smashes into the hoardings.  Ricky Ponting was back.

The hundreds were brought up either side of lunch.  The captain sealed his before the break, while his predecessor politely waited until just after.

It was a nervous moment for Ponting though, as he pushed a straight single before setting off, only to find himself diving for his ground at the bowlers end as the throw came in. 

A straight throw would’ve had Ponting out by easily a metre.  But he survived, and stood bemused, raising his bat to literally the dustiest, dirtiest century of his career.

A two-year monkey disappeared from his back, too.

Ponting would fall to the new ball on 134, and from there, the day would be handed over to Clarke as the records started mounting.

Just prior to Ponting’s dismissal, he raised his fifth career 150.  On 169, he found himself with a new highest Test score, surpassing the previous mark made in Wellington in 2010.

On 182, his big day out nearly came to an abrupt end, but Ishant Sharma couldn’t hold the return catch.  And so on Clarke went.

Five overs before drinks in the last session saw him overtake India’s first innings score off his own bat, and six balls later saw him bring up a magnificent maiden Test double century.  He was dropping off the doubters and knockers with every run.

Still, he wasn’t done.  While Clarke’s tally climbed by the over, Michael Hussey was already belting boundaries himself, bringing up a 70-ball fifty before we realised.  Australia’s lead was now beyond 250, and India seemed a long way out of this contest.

Once past 242, Clarke had topped Doug Walters’ previous mark as the highest score by an Australian at the SCG, and then in the final over of the day, the biggest ovation of the day - on both sides of the rope - celebrated a superlative 250.

Clarke would finish the day on 251* from a mammoth 342 balls, and having added 204 to his overnight score.  He shouldn’t have much trouble securing a new bat sponsor now.

After my tip about batting conditions getting better, Australia added 366 runs to close the day at 4/482, including sessions of 120, 113, and 133.  It’s a big day by any measurement, but even bigger when you factor in just the one wicket falling.

Already 291 behind, and with no end in sight, it’s hard to see India coming back in Sydney.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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