From the Vault:Ponting’s 120 & 143 no in his 100th Test match

first_imgBy Martin SmithTHE start to Ricky Ponting’s 100th Test match could hardly have gone any worse.First, Australia’s skipper lost the toss in the series-deciding Test against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in 2006, meaning his bowlers would get no more time to put their feet up having completed victory in Melbourne just three days earlier.Then, in the third over of the morning, Ponting did what he almost never did; he dropped a catch, an easy one too, to give a young Proteas batsman named AB de Villiers an early life.Speaking to earlier this year, Ponting concedes the occasion of his 100th Test match had got the better of him. With family and friends flying in to watch the milestone, he was feeling the pressure and nerves more than he had over most of the previous 99 Tests.But the dropped catch sparked him into action.“I thought to myself, ‘What are you doing? Why are you trying too hard? Just relax and get into it’,” he recalls.And when Australia started the third morning of the Test at a shaky 3-54 in reply to South Africa’s imposing first innings of 9-451, their skipper did exactly that – he relaxed.For the next three days, over the course of two innings, Ponting was imperious with bat in hand as he steered his side to a series win that affirmed their place as the official No.1 Test side in the world – despite a shock Ashes loss just six months earlier – and stretch his own lead on top of the world Test batting rankings.After the Proteas had crawled along at less than three runs an over for most of the first two (rain reduced) days, Ponting defied both the early batting collapse and an on-song attack to not only survive, but up the tempo.He reached his half-century on that third morning from just 68 balls and later joined an elite group of six to celebrate a ton of Tests with a ton of runs, bringing up the milestone from just 143 deliveries.When he was dismissed for 120, the score was just 5-222 and Australia needed a late-order cameo from Adam Gilchrist and a generous declaration from the desperate Proteas just before lunch on the final day to set up the second act of Ponting’s two-part show.Needing 287 to win in a little more than two sessions, Ponting was even more destructive than he was in the first innings. In concert with Matthew Hayden (90), the skipper helped the Australians rattle along at close to five runs an over and he brought up his second hundred of the match in the final session as the hosts closed in on victory.It was the second of three occasions that summer that he would score twin hundreds in a Test, and he remains the only man to do so in his 100th match.And when he crunched his 16th boundary of the innings to seal an eight-wicket victory, that dropped catch on the first morning – and all the nerves and pressure he had placed on himself – were nothing but a distant memory.(

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