Peter Roebuck: Ponting peerless in glint-eyed pursuit of sweetest revenge for 2005
Tuesday 19 December 2006
Ricky's revenge is complete. England have been dispatched. Monty Panesar's dismissal in the first over after lunch signalled the release of long suppressed emotions. Even Ponting, the coldest and hardest among them, held his arms aloft in this moment of triumph. A winter of discontent had been followed by a summer of elation.
Several of the players had suffered a miserable series in 2005. They had been working for 15 months to put matters right and rejoiced in their redemption. Bad memories were banished. After four days of struggle, England's resistance crumbled on the fifth morning as the captain's downfall was predictably followed by the rout of a brittle lower order. Australia were forced to sweat for wickets in sultry conditions but did not flag. Veterans and novices formed a formidable alliance dedicated to recapturing the urn. Nothing was going to stop them.
Ponting deserved the acclaim. He has been the campaign's outstanding figure. He has presided over an incisive performance from a hungry team. He has stood glint-eyed at the crease, alert at slip or poised at silly point. He began with a masterful hundred in Brisbane and ended with a sharp run-out in Perth.
His most telling contribution came in Adelaide. His bowlers had been flogged and a draw appeared Australia's highest hope. Then Kevin Pietersen took a risky single. Expecting to take advantage of a footsore fieldsman, he was stunned to find the home captain diving and throwing down the stumps. Next the Tasmanian convinced his players victory was still possible, reminding them how often they had worked wonders.
Nor did he leave the work to his team-mates, contributing a typically resourceful century. Then he set astute fields, preying on his opponents' nerves. Finally, he guided his team towards their target. It was a remarkable day upon which England's worst fears were confirmed.
Throughout, Ponting has kept his emotions under control. Indeed, he did not overreact to the setback in England, conceding that the better side had prevailed. He did not allow such distractions as substitute fieldsmen, reverse swing and crook decisions to linger in his mind. He is too smart for that. Instead he channelled anger into a motivating force.
England must be in a state of shock. Playing a powerful team can be a salutary experience. Strong players have emerged and the batting is solid, though Pietersen is wasted at No 5. Weak points have been exposed. Ricky's revenge has also been Duncan's disaster.
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