Old and New

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.


John Halliwell said...

Based on what he says and the apparent resolution with which he says it, Ponting seems desperate for one final crack at England (possibly two cracks with the back-to-back series of 2013/14), preferably as captain, to right painful wrongs (as he might see it), but no chance of that unless Clarke falls down a hole. And with this recent, if fickle, hint of a return to form, who would back against him? Well, I suppose quite a large number would, but I wouldn't be one of them.

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, John.

I'm sure Ponting would like a final crack at England, but he's going to need plenty of runs this Australian winter to stay in with a chance of getting it. Now that he's 37 (well, almost) and no longer captain (and because he's a great batsman), he'll be judged by harsher standards than before.

It'll be good watching him try.

Anonymous said...

I agree about Punter's innings. It was not like he used to be, far less ease and he had to be so focused to get that fifty. His shot to get out looked like a big lapse of concentration which is nearly always how he gets out now if he manages to pass 20.

If he is still in the team for the Ashes, something has gone very, very wrong with CA admin and domestic players.

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, Anon.

The six home Tests between now and the end of January will make or break him.

Sfx said...

Hi Brian,

Long time no see. I just rediscovered this blog from a comment on OB.

So wonderful to read, as always.

Hope you've been well.



Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks for that, Sfx.

It took a while for the comment to appear as I accidentally deleted it during a hectic weekend and it's taken until now to retrieve it.

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