Every morning for the last three days I passed two statues and did not give them even a cursory glance. This morning I was early and the MCG precinct was deserted. I was drawn, inexorably, to the first of the statues and gazed at the figure of Dennis Keith Lillee.
Captured in his delivery stride, coiled, lithe, taut and eyes focussed over his left shoulder, I could feel he was honing in on his quarry.
Twenty yards further and Victoria’s favourite son, “Billy” Ponsford is immortalised in a magnificent sculpture. It captures the determination of the man who went in first. The man who took the first barrage from the opposition.
The editors of Wisden remarked on the 1930 tour of England: “it is only fair to say that on more than one occasion [Bradman’s] task was rendered the easier by the skilful manner in which Woodfull and Ponsford, by batting of different description, had taken the sting out of the England bowling.”
It was with a heavy heart that I entered the MCG and felt as if I was in the vault of an Egyptian Pyramid. There was a foreboding sense of personal loss as I turned on the lights in the empty press box. I looked on to the vast expanse of green and the groundsmen cleaning, spraying and preening the old lady for what was going to be something like the last rites.
The situation facing Australia’s remaining four batsmen was something akin to prisoners on death row. The hanging was inevitable and it was only a matter time.
Johnson’s wait was mercilessly short; he inside-edged a Tremlett ball on to his pads and it ricocheted into his stumps.
One would say cricket’s version of euthanasia.
Haddin is the best straight driver in Australian cricket and I feel he would thrive with the added responsibility of captaining and batting one rung higher up the order. He is also a straight shooter and will be playing all three forms of the game.
There is a precedent for Haddin in that Dhoni is managing his tenure very successfully.
Siddle must, also, have passed the Ponsford statue because he was showing great resolve in partnering his, maybe, future Test captain.
Haddin waited 54 minutes before he opened his shoulders and deposited Swann high and handsome over long on.
Haddin brought up his 50 with a judicious edge and his innings had been a mixture of studied defence and calculated bravado.
Siddle made a robust 40 and showed he can be a doughty cricketer when he applies himself.
After Siddle went Hilfenhaus did not last long and Harris had a no-show. I would have expected him to come out even with a plaster. If for nothing else than to delay the inevitable.
Haddin remained unbeaten and literally the last man standing. He fought a lone battle and deserves to be considered as Australia’s next captain.
Ponting was interviewed on ABC Radio and said “You have to give full credit to England for the way they have prepared.”
He also said “I still feel I have a lot to offer Australian cricket.” This seemed at odds with his statement that he would know “this afternoon” about his damaged finger and his future.
Ponting’s personal struggles with the captaincy and his own form are now affecting ALL of Australian cricket. Perhaps he needs an extended break and Sydney would be a good starting point.
There is no shame in sitting out the next Test. There will be a reluctance to push him when he is at the lowest point of his career.
Some of the hardest decisions in life have the attendance of sadness. But that should not be a reason to maintain the status quo.
Ponting will be stubborn to the bitter end and does not believe he is at the end of the road. And in the final analysis it should be up to the selectors to determine this.
On the evidence of the last 18 months it does seem that Ponting is not the destructive number 3 he was three summers ago.
Perhaps he is a ghost from summers past!