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Ashes: Ponting's hundred guides Australia to 346-3

Ashes: Ponting's hundred guides Australia to 346-3

The opening day of England's Ashes defense started badly and got worse for the tourists, with Ricky Ponting's 32nd test hundred lifting Australia to 346 for three by stumps.
Pace spearhead Steve Harmison's attempted bouncer, the first delivery Thursday of the series-opening match, skewed off the pitch to England skipper Andrew Flintoff at second slip.
Australian opener Justin Langer took two boundaries off Harmison in that over and the lanky English quick was taken out of the attack after conceding 17 runs in his first two overs.
Langer scored 82 runs and Mike Hussey contributed 63 to an unbroken 148-run fourth wicket stand with Ponting, who played a commanding innings containing 17 boundaries for his 137.
Ponting now shares the Australian record with Steve Waugh for test centuries and is equal fourth on the all-time international list behind India's Sachin Tendulkar, who has 35.
Ponting insisted his hundred had no more significance than it would in any other match, despite the attention on this Ashes series.
"To do that when it mattered was good," he said. "It's nice, but what's even nicer is being 346-3 at the end of the day."
It was Ponting's ninth hundred in 13 tests since losing the Ashes series 2-1 last September in England.
The pace attack that propelled England to that upset series win took a battering in front of a ground-record 39,288 people under cloudless spring skies at the Gabba, which gave some extra bounce but few hints of serious swing.
Ponting said the English bowlers were obviously nervous, evidenced by Harmison's first ball, but he was braced for them to bounce back Friday.
"It's only a start _ one day in a game, we have to build on that," he said. "We know (Harmison) is a dangerous bowler ... you have to respect him. He'll bounce back I'm sure."
Flintoff, who has limited his bowling stints since returning from ankle surgery following the last England summer, had to shoulder the load and netted 2-48 in 16 overs.
He had Matthew Hayden (21) caught at slip with the total at 79 and Langer edging to point with Australia at 141 soon after lunch.
Ashley Giles, recalled from 12 months out with a hip problem at the expense of Monty Panesar, had Damien Martyn (29) caught at first slip with the total at 198 for three.
"We were all nervous," he said. "But the guys will keep their heads up ... and will come out buzzing tomorrow. I know this England team, this side doesn't lie down."
Harmison came into the match bothered by a side strain and was restricted to 12 overs in three spells, costing 52 runs.
He showed no glimpses of the form that netted him 5-43 in the first innings of first test at Lord's in 2005 and 17 wickets in the series.
Harmison did not bowl in the last session, leaving part-time spinner Kevin Pietersen (0-28) to bowl nine overs and Giles (1-51) to bowl 18.
Giles said Harmison was uptight about his bowling and had explained that the first ball just slipped out of his hand. And as far as Giles was aware, Harmison had not aggravated the injury.
"It was always going to be tough after losing the toss on what is a very good batting wicket," he said. "It was a long day in the heat and we stuck at it."
Langer started aggressively, stroking 13 boundaries from 98 balls.
The 101-test veteran had been expecting a pace barrage in his comeback test, his first since being knocked out by a Makhaya Ntini bouncer at South Africa in April, but it did not eventuate.
There was little of the fireworks expected on the first morning of a series that has been built up for 14 months as one of the biggest in test history.
The short-pitch blitz that characterized the opening session of the 2005 series at Lord's, where Langer and Ponting were struck by short balls, was suspended after Harmison's first ball.
England took 50 minutes to bowl a bouncer to Langer, who Ponting attributed with giving Australia the perfect start to the series.
"That's what he's in the team for, he's a fighter," said Ponting. "Every time he feels he's under pressure, he responds with runs."
Australia won the 2002-03 series 4-1 _ its eighth consecutive series win _ starting with a 384-run victory at Brisbane after a tactical blunder by then captain Nasser Hussain.
Hussain won the toss in that match, but went against conventional wisdom and decided to bowl first at the Gabba _ a move that backfired when Australia reached 364-2 on the opening day.


Updated : 2021-10-17 05:50 GMT+08:00