Phil Hughes has become the youngest batsmen ever to score two hundreds in the same Test match. By cutting his 247th ball to the boundary the perky 20-year-old beat, by 200 days, the record set in 1930 by George Headley. As the ball sped to the fence the South Africans looked nonplussed, scarcely able to believe that the alert southpaw with the darting back foot game had taken such a toll of them. Nor did the scoreboard offer any solace. South Africa have been crushed, almost humiliated. But it's no more than they deserved for playing self-indulgent and lacklustre cricket. At stumps Australia led by 506 with seven wickets and two days left.
Combining watchfulness in defence, astute shot selection and occasional forays into the exotic, Hughes (above) was superb. His ability to lash drives through the covers and willingness to cut past slip set him apart. If anything Ricky Ponting was even better. Seldom has the Tasmanian seemed more in command of bowling, team, opponents or himself. He peeled off sumptuous cover drives and flicks off his pads and his careless dismissal hooking to deep square leg 19 runs shy of his hundred came as a surprise, but the job had been done.
Hughes and Ponting came together after 55 had been added by the opening pair. The veteran and the novice have much in common, including size, grit and ruthlessness.
Their efficient collaboration pinpointed the reasons for the turnaround in this series. Hughes has emerged as the brave and bold voice of youth. Ponting is putting his imprint on a youthful side. All the baggage of the past has been left behind. Moreover his side have kept improving. A month ago Mitchell Johnson could not bowl an inswinger. As Hashim Amla could confirm, it has become his deadliest delivery. He is the best bowler in the world.
Australia only need to draw this match to retain top position in the rankings. Ponting's team has been busy reinventing itself, South Africa have been living on recent glories, which never works.Reuse content