Rana Malook reflects on Ricky Ponting's last every Test match.
As most die hard fans cried and continued with their own versions of Shakespeare's sister's Stay, Punter was gone. Much like many genius' before him, he didn't win many popularity competitions throughout his career. He was the Willie Beaman of cricket and just Like the protagonist in Any Given Sunday, winning was all Ricky Ponting ever respected. Triumph was his territory and he defended it at all cost.
His finger waving and general badgering of umpires may have infuriated many and resulted in glacially paced over rates. But once the dust settles, adulation will begin seeping through from all corners. The slow and painful realization will eventually surface. The cricketing world has lost someone very special.
"As you get older, things get taken from you. That's part of life. But you only realize that, when you start losing stuff". D'Amato's famous words reverberated as Ponting walked off the field for the last time at Perth. It's nothing short of a tragedy, that Test cricket will not see the great man bat again. The pain of losing a Test great is made bitterer by the manner of his exit. A crushing defeat by the new baton carriers of Ponting's prized possession, Test cricket no.1 status. Fairy tale ending it certainly was not, Ponting deserved better.
In the post match interview he enviously remarked about his dream of a fairy tale ending. Visions of ET finale and "You'll always be right here" must've adorned many a imaginations across the globe. But worry not Punter, those in the know don't care about all that, after all Ali late career exploits weren't the best and he's remembered as the greatest.
So never mind the ending, your career has been one long fairy tale. Sure it had its ups and downs but somehow when you're rocking in a chair years from now I think your story will make the grand kids proud.
Just as it did in Lion King however, it appears Life goes on. It's just the circle of life and it moves us all. South Africa for example moved effortlessly into a dominant phase of their own journey as Kings of Test cricket. The Australians had failed to deliver the knock out punch after having the tourists on the ropes for most of the previous test. The visitors were not so charitable in the final test at Perth, defeating the home side by 309 runs taking the series 1-0 in a style reminiscent of Muhammad Ali in Zaire 1974.
The South African's had posted a less than impressive total of 225 (Du Plesis the only notable highlight with another half century red inker) before Dale Steyn changed the complexion of the game. Like the rumble in the jungle, Steyn (who must've seen the Ali-Foreman fight the night before) was hearing the African roar of Boomaye himself as he ripped through the heart of the Australian batting line up in their first innings. Clarke was a notable victim.
The Australian captain, in the form of his life was dismissed in a manner which shuddered kangaroo spines. Pup, who'd looked his usual accomplished self, routinely played some of the best forward defensive shots ever seen before receiving an unplayable delivery from a Dale possessed.
Like a Piranha on speed, the ball speared in towards Clarke's middle stump at pace before pitching and seaming away just enough to take some flesh off the batsman's bat, horribly squaring him up in the process. It was the 17th over of Australia's first innings, they were 45-6 and well and truly bloodied in waters infested with circling South African sharks. A Wade half century rescued some pride but the home side were bowled out for 163 inside 54 overs and the damage was done.
Far from ease off, the tourist then launched an unrelenting assault on Aussie bowlers more fitting of a UFC cage fight. Amla was the main culprit with a brutal innings of 196 played in one day mode (SR 89), an innings worthy of his man of the match award.
Smith also came good just in time posting a respectable 80 odd in quick succession. It was the Saffers keeper/batsman however who really stamped his authority on the role left vacant by Boucher early in the year. AB's keeping was exceptional throughout the test notably an excellent and crucial stumping of Clarke in the second innings. His knock of 169 was sublime in nature and came at a strike rate bordering run a ball.
The brutality of this run avalanche meant that Saffers were able to set a mammoth target with two whole days to bowl out the opposition. Whilst there were decent odds being offered to any belligerent optimists out there for Ponting saving the game with a double hundred to bow out, I resisted. It turned out to be a wise decision. With the emotion of Punter's final innings very much in the frame, Australian minds caved without reaching the half way point up an Everest target of 632.
They were bowled out for 322 with Ponting departing to a standing ovation for 8 runs. Amla was then named man of the match as Clarke took the man of the series award, but the moment belonged to one man only, Ricky Ponting. The former Australian captain was rightly lifted onto shoulders and taken for a lap of honor around the ground. Despite defeat this was a day to celebrate the career of one of Australia's best ever sportsman.
Whilst one man was leaving his legacy behind, another was on his way to carving one of his own. The guard of honor granted to Ricky Ponting by Graeme smith was a touching gesture by a South African skipper who could go on to become a great himself. For lovers of cricket though a breezy romance that began 17 years earlier on the same ground came to a sedate tearful end.
Fear not folks, the beauty of cricket is such, tomorrow's another day to fall in love all over again. Can our very own captain Cook capitalize on his first Test win as full time captain? See you all at 3am for England's next episode against India on Wednesday.
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