Australia captain Ricky Ponting strode majestically to his 35th Test hundred to help his side recover from a shaky start in the opening Test against West Indies on Thursday.
Ponting used a West Indies attack hamstrung by the withdrawal just prior to the start of key strike bowler Jerome Taylor with a stiff shoulder to serenely progress to 158 which was the rock upon which Australia reached 301 for four in their first innings when stumps were drawn on the opening day of the Test at Sabina Park.
Ponting reached his milestone, when he moved down the pitch and whipped a flighted delivery from debutant off-spin bowler Amit Jaggernauth through mid-wicket for two. It completed his fourth hundred in a row in the Caribbean, and his seventh against West Indies which carried him past former India captain Sunil Gavaskar’s 34 on the list of batsmen with the most hundreds in Tests.
Another Indian batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar holds the record of 39. But Ponting was not finished yet, and he past 150, when he drove a full-length delivery from Daren Powell through extra-cover for two.
Ponting shared in two partnerships that put Australia back on track after they had slipped to 37 for two in the first hour. He added 137 with Mike Hussey, and put on 119 for the fourth wicket with Brad Hodge which has carried until through to the close.
Hussey batted painstakingly for most of innings for 56, and Hodge played within his limitations and was unbeaten on 53. Ponting arrived at the crease in the first half-hour, when Simon Katich, playing his first Test in two-and-a-half years, was caught at gully off Fidel Edwards for 12 in the first half-hour.
The left-handed Katich was asked to open the batting in light of an Achilles injury which sidelined Matthew Hayden, and was just emerging from a nervous start, when he guided a delivery outside the off-stump to Darren Sammy. Ponting soon saw Phil Jaques, one of the Australians making their first trip to the Caribbean, adjudged LBW for nine in Edwards’ next over, when he played back and across to a well-pitched delivery to wobble the visitors.
But Hussey joined Ponting at the wicket, and they navigated Australia through the remainder of the morning period to stem the fall of wickets, carrying the total to 87 for two at lunch. Hussey flicked Powell to deep fine leg for two to formalize the 50-run partnership for the third wicket pair just before lunch.
After the interval, Ponting played more fluently than he did before lunch, and inched along to his hundred. He’d reached his 50, when he punched a delivery from Darren Sammy to deep point and scrambled a single.
The Australia captain also formalized a 100-run partnership with Hussey, when he pulled Dwayne Bravo through mid-wicket for his eighth boundary. Hussey, batting doggedly, reached his 50, when he leg-glanced Bravo to deep fine leg for his fifth boundary.
But the left-handed Australia vice-captain was undone, when he was caught at slip for 56 playing back and sparring at a sharply turning ball from Jaggernauth which wrong-footed slip fielder Bravo, who still held a low, right-handed catch.
Ponting was within reach of his landmark, when Australia reached 189 for three at tea, and duly completed the milestone after the break. He found Hodge a steady ally and they continued to build a formidable position for Australia until 10 minutes before the close, when Ponting was caught at mid-wicket essaying one of his trademark pulls.