For all the carnage of Cape Town, perhaps the most significant of the many vignettes thrown up by the worryingly truncated series between South Africa and Australia was the partnership between Khawaja and Ponting which did most to secure Australia's victory in Johannesburg. The old and new of Australian batting, coming together in a dicey situation and playing as if their careers depended on it.
In at least one case, it probably did.
The evidence, statistical and physical, is that Ponting has been slipping for a while now, even if he claims not to realize it himself, and much about his innings of 62 carried the air of a man sliding towards a precipice and trying hard to dig his heels in.
He watched the ball like a hawk, took big strides, forward or back, to everything, while forcing his hands through the line of the ball with exaggerated care and leaving anything he didn't have to play with an emphasis which was just a little overstated for effect.
'Look at me. I could always bat and I still can. You won't see the back of me for a while yet', was what Ponting appeared to be saying.
When the dust had settled and his side's victory had been secured, he may even have found himself reflecting on the fact that batting never used to be quite such hard work. Time does that.
The left-handed Khawaja, a man at the opposite end of his career, impressed in a different way. After the outlandish praise heaped upon him in the wake of his debut innings of 37 at Sydney last January, he'd failed to build on it, and one or two people may have been wondering if he was all he was cracked up to be. At the Wanderers he was largely cool, stylish and precise in his judgement and appeared to have the valuable gift of time. He will be seen again, many times, in his baggy green.
Starting from a low base, Australia have had a good start to the English winter. The team is still wracked with apparent weaknesses: both openers look vulnerable, Harris excels both as a bowler and a collector of injuries, Johnson, with the ball anyway, may be finished. There is no decent spin to speak of. But they have Clarke, they have Khawaja and, for the time being they have Ponting.
And they fight. They always do.
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