Ponting ton puts Aussies in command

Agence France Presse

Sydney, January 3:

Skipper Ricky Ponting produced his first Test century for over a year to propel Australia into a powerful position against Pakistan in the third and final cricket Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday.

The 30-year-old right-hander erased the memory of an unproductive last 12 months to compile his 21st century, and first since his 257 against India in the 2003 Boxing Day Test and first as Australian captain, against a threadbare bowling attack on an easy batting strip.

Ponting, anxious to begin the new year on an upswing after scoring 697 runs in 2004 at 41.00 at the lower-rung of Australia’s top six batsmen, blazed an unbeaten 155 in 325 minutes with 23 boundaries.

At the close of the second day, Australia were 340 for four with Adam Gilchrist on 17 to lead Pakistan by 36 runs with six wickets in hand and with three days’ play remaining in Australia’s final domestic Test of the summer and a third straight win over the injury-hit tourists in the offing. Australia are playing in a dead rubber Test after clinching the series with a massive 491-run win in the first Perth Test and a nine-wicket triumph in the Melbourne Boxing Day Test. Ponting put on 174 runs for the third wicket with Damien Martyn, who missed out on emulating a Don Bradman scoring feat.

Martyn, coming off a stellar last year of six centuries and 1,353 runs at 56.37, was shooting for his third hundred in consecutive Test innings after scores of 100 not out in Perth and 142 in Melbourne.

But he was stumped for 67 off leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, preventing him from becoming the first Australian batsman since Bradman in 1948 to score three consecutive centuries.

Michael Clarke appeared set before he threw away his wicket when he was also stumped off Kaneria for 35 off 50 balls.

Pakistan had to do without their ‘Rawalpindi Express’ Shoaib Akhtar, who was off the field for 75 minutes during the middle session with what appeared to be a strained right hamstring. Kaneria finished with 3-106 off 30 overs.

Australia lost both openers before lunch after the Pakistanis had added 12 runs to their overnight total of 292 for nine to be all out after 4.4 overs of the morning session with wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal last man out for 47.

Justin Langer was bowled by a beautiful inswinger from Rana for 13 in the fourth over of the Australian innings. Matthew Hayden had a life on 26 when Asif dropped a sharp caught and bowled chance but went soon after without addition to a horrible swipe at Kaneria with Australia on 83 for two. McGrath finished the innings with 4-50 off 16.4 overs while recalled leg-spinner Stuart MacGill had the best return of 5-87 off 22 overs.