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Ponting proves his worth, as test remains in limbo

December 2, 2011

That New Zealand had fought their way back into game was immediate apparent in the first hour of day two between Australia vs New Zealand at the Gabba in Brisbane. The familiar script from yesterday continued.  Daniel Vettori in his unorthodox way, quickly piled on the runs. Dean Brownlie was a steady hand at the other end and Australia continued to drop easy chances.

Vettori and Brownlie had pushed the score to 5 for 218, when Vettori tried his characteristic slog heave  over midwicket and skied it. Debutant Starc went after it but never looked confident, he staggered when he saw David Warner approaching and that cost him even get a hand on the ball. Again, Australia put down a chance that should have been taken. The next ball Nathan Lyon dropped a sharp chance off his own bowling. Vettori was now on 71

Vettori and Brownlee seemed to take heart from Australia’s vulnerability. They  were picking up runs like it was a one day game. Vettori continued to take on bowlers, particularly Lyon, with his cross bat heaves and Michael Clarke was visibly in despair as he blasted his way to 96 off 127 deliveries.

Being 95 plus, though, tends to put batsmen into a different state of mind where they try things that ordinarily they never would. Vettori played the ball straight to Mike Hussey at mid-off and inextricablyset off for a run. Hussey set aim and smashed the stumps with a direct hit. Vettori couldn’t bear to look back, as he agonised over the decision he had made. He was run out by a metre for 96, in what seemed a cruel end to a brilliant innings.

As it is in cricket, wickets bring a momentum of their own. New batsmen Reece Young never looked comfortable against Siddle’s line and length, he played and missed, he edged just short off Hughes at third slip and then edged it straight to Clarke at first slip. Clarke made sure he made no mistake this time. Young was gone for 2 off 5 balls.

New Zealand were now 7 for 256. Soon it was 8 for 259, Doug Bracewell was obviously given instructions to defend and allow Brownlie to pile on the runs. He never really looked like he was going to score and got a duck off 18 balls.

Southee, a natural-born slogger, was not going to follow Bracewell’s path and he came out swinging. He succeeded for a while, including a big six off Mitchell Starc.  As expected, he was eventually caught in the deep going for another one as Mike Hussey took an easy catch  at long on from Lyon’s bowling

Now it was time for one of the most anticipated moments in the test. Chris Martin came out to bat. The speculation being whether he would add to his 30 test ducks.  He managed an inside edge for a single. Before Lyon cleaned up his stumps with a nice off break. Brownlie stuck at the other end on 77. Lyon managed impressive figure of 4 for 66, at a ground not known for its friendliness towards spin.

After being 5 or 96, that New Zealand manged to reach 295 could only be considered a victory and enough to put pressure on an Australian batting line up that has been shaky at best recently.

That pressure showed immediately. While David Warner played spinner Daniel Vettori, who opened the bowling, well enough. The first ball from swing bowler Southee was an awkward one that Warner couldn’t avoid, it struck him on the glove and went straight through to ‘keeper young. Australia were 1 for 3 at lunch.

The wicket had enough in it to trouble the batsmen, particularly batsmen lacking confidence. Philip Hughes tried to defend a ball off Chris Martin but the ball hit the seam, caught the edge and went straight to Guptill at gully, who took a nice diving catch.

Hughes continues to have problems getting caught behind and critics who have called for him to be replaced will  have further ammunition now.

Just like in Johannesburg, it was up to Ricky Ponting and Usman Khawaja to steady a sinking ship, which they did with aplomb. Both played beautiful strokes  when they were there to be played but also looked solid in defence, as they brought the score to 91.

The calmness they brought was however, rudely, interrupted by a bit of brilliance by Kane Williamson. The very first ball after tea Ponting dabbed a short pitched ball straight into the ground . He set off for the run. Khawaja hesitated. Williamson didn’t. He flew in from mid wicket, dove onto the ball and under armed it to run out Khawaja comfortably. Ponting, though, was probably to blame as it seemed way too risky a run to take, particularly so early on in the session. New Zealand needed something to break the spell Ponting and Khawaja were beginning to conjure up. This would do quite nicely.

It also set up the final session to be crucial . Another quick wicket and Australia would be in trouble, if not, Australia could set themselves up for a big score.

New Zealand almost got that quick wicket the next ball, when Clarke timed a beautiful straight drive just past Tim Southee’s finger and it flew straight into the stumps. It would have been two run outs in two balls if he managed to put anything onto it.

All this spurred the bowling side on, as wickets tend to do. Ponting, after being bogged down for a few overs, took up the challenge, as he brought up his fifty with a backfoot drive through the covers.

Ponting and Michael Clarke seemed to be taking control, with the score up to 141.  This, however, seemed to have all changed when Clarke attempted to leave the ball late, got an inside edge and the ball hit middle stump. Clarke kicked the ground as he trudged off but got a dramatic reprieve, when the umpire checked with the third umpire whether it was a no-ball. Replays showed conceitedly that it was. So, Clarke got another chance to atone for his mistake.

Medium pace trundle Brownlie then almost got Ponting leg before, it was given not out, refered but the original call stood after it said it was the “umpire’s call”. This unfortunately proved the last of any substantial action, as once again bad light stopped play as fans rightfully booed.  Australia walked off the ground on 154 for 3. Ponting remaining not out on 67 and Clarke on 28.

The match then is fairly delicately poised moving into a day three that hopefully will be able to be completed in full

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