Ricky Ponting is just like his old self with century against Derbyshire

Derbyshire 452 Surrey 362-4 (Surrey trail by 90 runs)


Ricky Ponting retired from international cricket with the honest admission that he no longer felt good enough, and when quizzed about his position on the eve of his debut as a Surrey player he insisted there is no going back. More days such as this and he can expect to be asked again – and again.

The former captain of Australia announced the start of his second stint in English domestic cricket with the 81st first-class century of his career, a chanceless demonstration that even at 38, the feet are sufficiently nimble and the eyes sufficiently sharp to make scoring runs at this level look as routine as ever, even if facing the likes of Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn has become a little too demanding.

Sure, Ponting will face more difficult opponents than Derbyshire, whose willingness to service his fondness for the pull shot seemed to be taking respect for his stature in the game just a little too far.

The pull shot, the off drive and the cut accounted for the majority of the 13 boundaries that enabled him to make the statement Surrey were willing him to make in a season that, as so many before, is not going according to plan.

After their bad luck with Graeme Smith, injured before he could make any real impact, Surrey needed Ponting to confirm that his fine form in the Sheffield Shield, when he made three hundreds including a double for Tasmania, was a more accurate indicator of his longevity than his scratchy effort for Mumbai in the IPL.

Arriving immediately after lunch, following the dismissal of Vikram Solanki, Ponting had 62 by tea and a century by a quarter past five. He shared a partnership of 180 for the third wicket with Arun Harinath, who turned his third career hundred into a career-best 154 before he was bowled by a ball from David Wainwright, the left-arm spinner, that kept low and struck him on the heel.

Surrey insisted afterwards that he, rather than Ponting, should hold court with the media, as recognition of the quality of his innings.

It was a stylish effort all round, including 21 fours and one six, the maximum taking him into three figures when he lifted a ball from Wes Durston over the long-on boundary.

Some balls spun, although there was never any serious help for the bowlers on a generally benign track that will probably consign this match to a draw. It did not help Derbyshire's cause, though, that several of their number complained, along with umpire Nigel Cowley, of feeling light-headed soon after lunch.

Cowley left the field for 20 minutes, his place taken by the Surrey first-team coach, Ian Salisbury, although the cause of the affliction could not be explained.

Derbyshire had bowled most effectively in the morning, although it took them until the stroke of lunch to make a breakthrough, when Solanki, who had looked uncomfortable against Mark Footitt's pace, turned a ball from Durston down the leg side to be caught by short-leg Billy Godleman after rebounding off the thigh of wicketkeeper Richard Johnson.

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