David Lloyd: Skipper deserves to stand alongside Aussie greats

For sheer determination, current top scorer Allan Border takes a lot of beating
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The Independent Online

If the weather provides a window of opportunity, the coin comes down the right way and England's bowlers give him half a chance, Ricky Ponting will be Australia's all-time leading run-scorer in Test cricket by tonight.

Should none of the above happen then simply fast forward a day or two. For with only 25 runs needed to overtake Allan Border's haul of 11,174, it is only a question of when – rather than if – Ponting moves to third place in the worldwide list behind Sachin Tendulkar (12,773) and Brian Lara (11,953).

"I've probably got bigger fish to fry than that right at the moment," said Ponting. "Twenty-five runs is not what I'm after in this game, although it would be nice to get them out of the way in the first innings."

Whether he does or doesn't, Australia's current captain will shortly find himself at the head of a distinguished list of men who have not only worn the Baggy Green with pride but also doffed it to the crowd on numerous occasions.

Then, with cricket being the game it is and statistics meaning so much to so many, the debate will intensify: just how good is the little bloke from Tasmania and does he really deserve to be regarded as the best batsman to have emerged from Down Under?

Well, actually, we can forget about that last part because Don Bradman disqualifies everyone else from even thinking they might be top dog.

Bradman? That bloke who played most of his Tests against England when "mystery" spinners out of Asia were nowhere near to developing a doosra? Yes, that's the one – he scored 29 centuries in just 52 Tests (better than one every three innings) and averaged a gnat's whisker under 100. End of argument.

But apart from Bradman, then, where does Ponting stand? Well, like beauty, batting is in the eye of the beholder, and there are some real belters all the way down to The Don, who is in 36th place with his 6,996 runs. For sheer elegance, you could not do much better than either Mark Waugh (8,029 runs from 128 Tests) or Greg Chappell (7,110 from 87), who were from different generations but broke bowlers' hearts in the same way through their purity of stroke.

And if you wanted a bully boy capable of biffing the opposition into submission then how about the recently retired Matthew Hayden (8,625 runs from 103 Tests)?

But for sheer determination (on top of a hell of a lot of skill) the two men currently either side of Ponting in the list, Border (156 Tests) and Steve Waugh (10,927 runs from 168 Tests), take some beating.

Border's runs, and famously grumpy captaincy, helped to transform Australia from losers to winners in the late 1980s while Waugh's over-my-dead-body batting played a big part in turning them into unbeatable champions.

So Ponting is above his station, then? Not a bit of it. A total of 38 centuries from 133 Tests and an average of 56 is top drawer in any era and now, with almost all the other big names retired, his hundreds are more valuable than ever.

True, Ponting has become the No 1 Aussie villain with English crowds now that Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath are no longer here to heckle. He will deserve nothing but rapturous applause, though, on becoming No 1 Aussie batsman.

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