Matthew Hoggard: Ricky Ponting - a batsman who struck the fear of God into bowlers

The former England seamer recalls a tough and talented Ashes opponent

It was on my first tour to Australia, 10 years ago, that I bowled my first ball at Ricky Ponting. Before the game our coach, Duncan Fletcher, had drummed it into us how to bowl to him – six and a half metres from the stumps. I ran up, bowled and Ponting on-drove straight back past me for four.

Fletcher was not impressed. He pulled me aside when we got in, ready to hand out a bit of a bollocking. “What are you doing?” he said. “We talked about this.” He got the footage up and we measured it. There it was, six and a half metres – the perfect ball and Ponting hit me for four. Fletcher let me off that one!

The word great or legend is too easily used these days in sport but not about Ricky Ponting. It has been a fantastic career. He strikes fear into the opposition bowlers – I know, I’ve been there. His was the wicket you always truly valued. Sometimes you would stand there and think, ‘How am I going to get this guy out?’ It was not often you fancied bowling at him. His technique was good – of course it was – but he had this positive aura about him too.

He and Brian Lara were guys that would take you apart, score runs very quickly. Sachin Tendulkar would more often take balls on merit whereas Ponting and Lara had more strokes. They could destroy you. With Ponting you had to bowl good balls to get a dot ball, never mind getting him out. Where was he strong? Front foot, back foot and both sides of the wicket…

For the 2005 Ashes we came up with the idea of trying to get under his skin. Steve Harmison hit him at Lord’s in the first Test and cut him under his cheek (below) and not one of us went to see how he was. Justin Langer was at the other end and was taken aback by this. He didn’t know what to make of it and started saying “f****** hell, are we at f****** war here or what?” He was really giving it out. So we just turned round and said, “Yes.”

Then there was Trent Bridge when Gary Pratt ran him out and sparked Ponting’s angry reaction. I have a photograph up at home of me and Ashley Giles watching him walk off. We are standing slightly away from the huddle and Ponting is turning back and giving us words. The look on our faces!

He wasn’t shy in coming forward. If he felt someone was out of line, or something needed being said, he would be at the front of the queue. But everybody respected him as a player and a person. The South Africa captain, Graeme Smith, calls him the most competitive opponent he ever had – he was tough. He didn’t give it out unless you gave it to him, and if you did…

His batting had it all. At Old Trafford in 2005 he saved Australia by staying there for almost seven hours. He properly stonewalled us but he was always nice to watch, there was nothing ugly about his game. He exuded confidence whether he was playing an attacking game or a defensive one.

The one shot of his that most amazes me will be an odd one for a lot of people. It’s not his driving or cutting, but his leave. It was such a statement – the most confident leave you could see. It felt like a challenge to the bowler. If you could hit a four with a leave that was the way. 

Off the field he kept himself to himself. In 2005 when we were going into their changing rooms he was aloof and reserved. That is down to his competitiveness – he was there to beat us, not make friends.

He was a good captain. But how good is hard to judge. It was not the most difficult job in the world, was it? – leading an attack with Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath at the other end, and then Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie. And a batting line-up of Langer, Matthew Hayden, Damian Martyn, Michael Clarke and you can go on. He was fortunate in having a very, very good team to lead. He was astute, though, and his team clearly loved playing under him and certainly played for him.

You always want to play the best and that Australian team is one you wanted to take on. And at the head of it all, Ricky Ponting. A great.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
music
News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes