LEEDS, England, (Reuters) – Captain Ricky Ponting led a gritty Australian fightback on the second day of the second test against Pakistan yesterday.
Ponting steered his team to 136 for two at the close, just 34 runs behind Pakistan who bowled out the Australians for 88 on the first day at Headingley.
Ponting, who scored his first test century on the same ground, made an unbeaten 61 and shared a stand of 81 with Michael Clarke (32 not out) after Shane Watson had checked Pakistan’s progress with test-best figures of six for 33.
Australia did not lose a wicket in a final session curtailed by bad light to revive hopes of registering an eighth straight test victory and Ponting became the second man to reach 12,000 test runs with a boundary to third man off Mohammad Aamer.
He acknowledged warm applause from a sparse crowd which had gradually increased throughout the day by raising his arm in the air and then his bat to all parts of the stadium.
The warm reception was a far cry from boos he received in last year’s Ashes series when he was treated like a pantomime villain.
Pakistan were still in with a chance of a first test victory over Australia for 15 years but Ponting’s side will not have forgotten how they won in Sydney in January after conceding a first-innings deficit of 206 runs to the Pakistanis.
“As we have seen throughout his (Ponting’s) career, when times are at their toughest that is when we see his strength of character and quality of him as a player,” Watson told reporters.
“He is looking great out there at the moment. From the situation we were in yesterday we knew we had to play some good cricket to get back into the game. We are well on the way though there is still a lot of hard work to be done.”
Pakistan resumed on 148 for three after the start was delayed by 45 minutes because of rain.
They lost their fourth wicket freakishly when Umar Amin ducked under a bouncer from Ben Hilfenhaus only for the ball to strike the back of his bat and fly to Marcus North at square leg.
The main damage was caused after lunch when Watson took four wickets for seven runs in 13 balls, buoyed by the overcast conditions that assisted his out-swing.
“The match is in the balance at the moment,” Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said.
“We didn’t get the partnerships going with the bat that we would have liked but we still have a 34-run lead and if we can pick up two or three quick wickets tomorrow we are well in the game.”