Ricky Ponting, searching for an elusive century to save his Test career, led an Australia rally on the second day of their first Test against New Zealand at the Gabba yesterday.
Ponting, without a century in his previous 28 Test innings and under pressure to keep his place, had a few close shaves to have Australia in reasonable shape at 154 for three in reply to New Zealand’s 295 at stumps.
The former skipper, whose last big innings of 209 against Pakistan in Hobart was almost two years ago, was unbeaten on 67 with his successor, Michael, Clarke not out 28.
Ponting narrowly avoided being run out before he had scored when Brendon McCullum’s throw just missed the stumps at the non-striker’s end and he also survived a video referee’s referral for LBW on 63.
Ponting, who turns 37 later this month, unfurled some of his classic drives and pulls among his 11 boundaries to look back in scoring nick.
“Ricky’s one of the legends of the game,” Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon said. “We all have confidence in him and we’re going to back him up right to the end of the day. He’s awesome, so hopefully he can go on and get a big one tomorrow.”
Clarke on 23 had a huge slice of luck when in the 42nd over he played Doug Bracewell on to his stumps only for Pakistan umpire Asad Rauf to check for a no-ball.
Replays showed that Bracewell had overstepped the popping crease giving the Aussie skipper a reprieve.
Ponting and Clarke’s unbroken 63-run stand rescued the home side after the loss of David Warner (3), Phil Hughes (10) and Usman Khawaja (38) for 91 runs.
Twenty20 specialist Warner’s Test innings debut lasted just three balls before he was out in the over before lunch when he failed to get out of the way from a superb lifting Tim Southee delivery and was caught off the gloves by wicketkeeper Reece Young.
Hughes was out to a great diving catch by Martin Guptill in the gully off Chris Martin and Khawaja again failed to go on after a start when he was run out on the first ball after tea.
Ponting attempted a risky run to the leg side and Kane Williamson swooped in from midwicket and hit the stumps easily beating Khawaja’s dive.
“I don’t think anyone really gave us a chance of scoring almost 300 in those conditions and all the talk and all the history of the wicket indicates that’s a good score,I think we’re feeling good about ourselves,” Kiwi topscorer Daniel Vettori said. “But we do need to back it up with the ball tomorrow and that first session will be the key and not let the game get away from us.”
New Zealand added 119 runs for their last five wickets from an overnight 176 for five with Dean Brownlie, dropped twice when he was on three, remaining unbeaten on 77 put together in 249 minutes.
Vettori was in sight of his first Test century against Australia when he inexplicably set off for a quick run to mid-off only for Mike Hussey to run him out with a direct throw at the bowler’s end.
“It took a direct hit, if it wasn’t a direct hit I would have been in and he’s a very good fielder. I picked the wrong guy,” Vettori said.
Vettori, who came to the crease with the Black Caps tottering at 96 for five just after lunch on Thursday, lay prone in disappointment as he sprawled to make his ground and was out for 96 in just more than three hours with 10 boundaries.
He put on a Gabba record sixth-wicket stand for New Zealand of 158 with Brownlie, eclipsing the previous best of 95 between Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns at the ground in 2001.