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Ponting’s 32nd century puts Aussies in a commanding position

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Ricky Ponting notched up his 32nd hundred to begin Australia’s mission of getting back the Ashes. The Australians having won the toss and batting first at a beautiful batting wicket at Gabba closed the opening day of the Ashes at 346 for 3. A total day of dominance it was from Ponting’s men. Apart from Ponting, Justin Langer and Michael Hussey had scored half centuries as English seamers with the exception of Andrew Flintoff couldn’t get their direction and lengths right in most part of the day.

An interesting inclusion in the Australian line up was that of Stuart Clark who got ahead of Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson. Michael Clarke who wouldn’t have played this Test Match had Shane Watson remained fit is yet to bat along with the dangerous Adam Gilchrist, there is still plenty of batting left for the homeside and most people expect them to make a huge total of 550 plus. The English side had one prominent change with Ashley Giles getting selected instead of Monty Panesar. A good start it was for the Australians with Hayden and Langer putting up 79 runs for the first wicket. Flintoff gave England the first hope by forcing Hayden to nick one to the slips and with that the English men got back all the energy that was required to compete. Hayden missed out on a big score on an easy track falling for just 21. Hayden’s partner, Langer didn’t miss the opportunity though as he stroked the ball in the gaps quite often to put on a marvelous partnership with his Skipper Ponting.

Ponting was keen on making his start count today, so was Justin Langer who wanted to show that he was miles better than Phil Jaques. However, a rush of blood saw Justin Langer fall just a while after play had resumed after the lunch break. Langer played an uppish square drive off Flintoff to Pietersen at point. The 36-year-old Justin Langer could have easily gone onto score his 23rd hundred but for that one mistake. His runs had come at a quick pace in just 98 balls with as many as 13 fours! The next man was Damien Martyn who was reasonably comfortable at the crease and as a result another fifty-run partnership followed for the Kangaroos. It was Ashley Giles who had provided the breakthrough this time with a delivery that looked short for the cut shot but had bounced extra to catch the outside edge of Damien Martyn’s blade. Martyn was caught by Collingwood in the slips after he had made 29.

Young Michael Hussey came in at 198 for 3 and there was no further joy for the English bowlers for the remaining 42.4 overs. Ricky Ponting has taken his score to 137 from 206 balls with 16 fours. He had celebrated his 32nd century as if it was his first; such was the excitement and emotion shown by him in starting the series with a superb century and leading the team with his performance. Hussey without any fuss had moved onto 63 from 133 balls with five hits to the ropes. Andrew Flintoff was the best bowler with 2 for 48 from 16 overs while Ashley Giles looked good in attacking the batsmen; he finished the day with 1 for 51 from 18.

The biggest disappointment of the day was Steve Harmison who not only went wicketless but was very expensive as well going for 52 in his 12. Harmison who had bowled the first over of this Ashes had bowled a widish wide delivery to Justin Langer from over the stumps to begin the proceedings in this Test Match. It was taken in the slips by a brave Andrew Flintoff, such was the erratic nature of that delivery. The problem for England was that they couldn’t come back during the middle overs as the pace bowlers just couldn’t get the Kookaburra ball to reverse swing. It was reverse swing that had got the Ashes for England in 2005 and that is something they need very badly in the coming days of Test Cricket.

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