The former Australia captain was the supreme all-format batsman of his time – here’s a look at some of his best days at work.
96 v Sri Lanka, Perth Test, 1995
The Test match is more memorable for Michael Slater’s 219 in an Australian win by an innings and 36 runs, but it was Ponting’s Test debut, and he almost wrote his name in the record books by scoring a century. It wasn’t to be, but the 96 he scored gave an indication of where he might end up – he played 184 balls over four hours, hit eight fours, and showed both an ability to find runs and put a price on his wicket.
145 v Zimbabwe, New Delhi ODI, 1998
He had started out in 1995 and established himself as an all-format player on the rise when Australia travelled to India to play a triangular one-day international series, with Zimbabwe as the third team. The Australians were on the way to becoming the world beaters they would be shortly, but had lost both their games against India and needed to beat Zimbabwe in their final group game to be sure of making the final. Out strode Ponting, and added 219 with Mark Waugh (87) for the second wicket, before going on to score a belligerent 158-ball 145. Australia’s 294/3 proved 16 too much for Zimbabwe, and Australia went on to win the final against India too.
197 v Pakistan, Perth Test, 1999
It was Ponting’s fifth Test century, and the best till that point. Against Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq, Ponting was in the sort of dominant form that viewers got used to in later years. Pakistan were down after being bowled out for 155 the first time, and Ponting’s 197 from No.6 knocked them out. Justin Langer also scored a century as Australia put up 451. They didn’t have to bat again with Pakistan going down by an innings and 20 runs.
129 v South Africa, Bloemfontein ODI, 2002
Australia had won the ICC Cricket World Cup 1999 and would go on to win the 2003 title too. Prior to that, they travelled to South Africa, the venue for the 2003 championship, and Ponting gave lots of hints as to his comfort in the conditions. Up 2-0 in the seven-match series, Australia rose on Ponting’s masterful 126-ball 129 to hit 290/6, his innings studded with 15 fours and a six. South Africa could only get to 253.
47 and 100* v South Africa, Cape Town Test, 2002
Australia were already 1-0 up when the second Test took place in Cape Town. Batting wasn’t easy, and the home side folded for 239 first up. It was Adam Gilchrist’s 138* that gave Australia the lead, Ponting – not yet the captain of the side – contributing 47 in the total of 382. South Africa then put up 473, to set Australia a target of 331. Tough, of course, but not with Ponting leading the way with a super century. His 100* took up just 160 balls, and with Langer and Matthew Hayden scoring half-centuries, Australia went 2-0 ahead with a four-wicket win, Ponting finishing the job in the company of Shane Warne.
140 v India, Johannesburg ODI (World Cup final), 2003
Australia, led by Ponting, had won everything on the way to the title round. Their opponents, India, had won everything but the earlier clash against Australia, and the trend didn’t change in the final. India chose to field first, and then watched Adam Gilchrist (57) and Matthew Hayden (37) hit 105 runs for the first wicket in just 14 overs. India could have fought back after sending the openers back in quick succession, but Ponting – in collaboration with Damien Martyn – pretty much smashed them out of the game. Martyn hit 88* in 84 balls, while Ponting, at his arrogant best, scored 140* in 121 balls, with four fours and eight muscular sixes. Australia won by a massive 125 runs.
257 v India, Melbourne Test, 2003
Ponting hit an incredible 706 runs in the four-Test series, with two half-centuries and two centuries. The best of them was the career-best 257 he hit in Melbourne, an innings that gave Australia a series-levelling win after they had lost the Adelaide Test earlier. Virender Sehwag’s electric 195 took India to 366, but Ponting topped Sehwag comfortably. Hayden helped, with an innings of 136, but Ponting was the star, batting from the seventh over to the 151st, close to 10 hours, for the big double-century. It knocked the wind out of the Indian sails, and they rolled over for 286 the second time to go down by nine wickets.
156 v England, Manchester Test, 2005
It was the famous English Ashes victory of 2005. It was 1-1 when the third Test began at Old Trafford, and it was chiefly because of Ponting that it stayed that way five days later. England were 142 ahead after the first-innings exchanges, and then set Australia 423 to win with over a day left. When time ran out, England were just one wicket away from victory. That it got there, and Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath somehow held on, was down to the 411 minutes Ponting batted in the fourth innings, eating up 275 balls in scoring 156. Ponting wasn’t synonymous with rearguards – but he could do it when he had to. “That would probably be the innings that I’m most proud of,” he said afterwards.
164 v South Africa, Johannesburg ODI, 2006
It was that match – 434/4 v 438/9. Australia ended up on the wrong side of a memorable game, but not for lack of trying on their captain’s part. Ponting hit the ball as sweetly as he ever has, his 164 coming in 105 balls. Half-centuries from Gilchrist, Simon Katich and Mike Hussey helped, but it was to be Herschelle Gibbs’ day, as his 111-ball 175 took South Africa to victory. It was perhaps Ponting’s best ODI innings, as it was for Gibbs.
196 and 60* v England, Brisbane Test, 2006
Determination, sheer bloody-mindedness … Ponting had become synonymous with the traits by the time the 2006-07 Ashes series started, and with both teams out to grab the early advantage in the first Test in Brisbane, Ponting led the way. He hit 196 in 319 balls in over seven-and-a-half hours before Matthew Hoggard hit him in front and he had to walk away after a big swipe at the turf. But Australia put up 602/9 declared, and after bowling England out for 157, batted again and scored 202/1, the captain hitting 60* in 85 balls. England only managed 370 the second time to lose by 277 runs. That made it 1-0 to Australia, and it would end 5-0 in their favour.