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Ponting and Katich teach England a lesson

Posted in npower Ashes Series 2009

Ricky Ponting & Simon Katich

Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich join forces during an unbroken stand of 189

So what did we learn today?

Forgive me if that takes you back to your primary school days - I don't mean to sound like a patronising parent - but it is a question worth asking as we make an early assessment of England and Australia’s Ashes credentials.

While you could argue that two days into a five-Test series is too soon to be judging either side, today’s events in Cardiff could prove instructive in the grand scheme of things.

We learnt that Ricky Ponting is as good as ever with the bat in hand - he hit his 38th Test century - if not with the captain’s armband on (don’t get me started on that again; yesterday’s blog explains things).

We learnt that Simon Katich is a much better player than last time he toured this country, and may well be the more difficult of the two openers to dislodge this summer.

We learnt that Australia’s attack is not as penetrating as the 2005 vintage - can you imagine Graeme Swann and James Anderson thrashing 68 runs in fewer than nine overs against the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath?

And we learnt that England’s attack is not as penetrating as four years ago. For evidence, look no further than the fact they went the best part of two sessions without taking a wicket.

Ricky Ponting

Ponting savours his 38th Test century, having reached 11,000 Test runs earlier in the afternoon

Above all, we learnt to expect a Test - maybe even a series - in which bowlers will shoulder a heavy workload.

Some may blame the pitch at Test cricket’s newest venue, which has offered the seamers limited assistance and only slow turn for the spinners, but the calibre of batsmen has surely played its part.

Ponting and Katich wasted little time in showcasing their talents today, an unbroken 189-run stand for the second wicket serving as the centrepiece of what promises to be a lengthy Australia innings.

Ponting showed us little we did not know already: he is a world-class batsman capable of playing every shot in the book, and his appetite for occupation of the crease has clearly not been sated by age.

In passing 40, he became the fourth player in history to score 11,000 runs in Tests - Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Allan Border stand ahead of him - and, if his unbeaten 100 was not one of his most destructive innings, the manner in which he pressed on with unerring ruthlessness should be enough fill England’s bowlers with dread.

The merits of Katich have been largely overlooked in the build-up to this series, with the more precocious Hughes occupying the thoughts of players, journalists and fans alike.

Katich’s highest score in 12 previous innings against England was 67, made at Lord’s in an otherwise trying 2005 series. He bettered that at the first opportunity today.

Simon Katich

Katich's hundred - his first against England - was central to Australia's second-day dominance in Cardiff

In sharp contrast to Ponting, his crab-like stance, awkward shuffling at the crease and dominant bottom hand do not make for particularly enjoyable viewing - except from the Australian balcony, perhaps.

Attractive he is not, but effective he most certainly is, and perhaps most worrying for England were the shortage of chinks evident in his armour during his spell at the crease.

He offered a fiendishly difficult chance to Andrew Flintoff - inches off the ground in his follow-through - when he had made 10, but that was as close as England came to dislodging him.

As artist and artisan continued to prosper on the blankest of canvasses, and the scoreboard ticked over with metronomic regularity, so English spirits sagged, and a whirlwind morning session which saw the hosts add 99 runs in an hour and a quarter was shunted further back in the mind.

Swann had blazed a thrilling unbeaten 47 off just 40 balls, ably assisted by Anderson and even Monty Panesar.

Swann was clearly enjoying himself as he swung away merrily, and the sight of a couple of Nathan Hauritz deliveries turning sharply out of the rough prompted an even bigger grin from the two spinners.

Ponting and Katich soon wiped the smile from their faces.

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