Ricky Ponting was the main attraction for the Prime Minister’s XI, but cagey West Indian spinner Sunil Narine spoilt the party for the retired great in his international swansong.
Ponting walked on to Manuka Oval to a standing ovation, only to make the return journey just 15 runs later, much to the disappointment of the strong Canberra crowd.
The former Australian captain had looked capable of feasting on a batsman-friendly pitch until Narine snuck one through his defences as the PM’s XI held on for a 23-run victory.
“Today wasn’t about me, it was about some of the younger guys,’’ Ponting said.
“I was confident we could win the game and it was good to see most of those younger guys that batted at the top of the order get some runs.’’
“Just the experience the younger guys would’ve gained from a game like today would’ve been great for them.’’While the PM’s XI largely had its way with the West Indian bowling attack, carving out an imposing 333 from its 50 overs, Ponting’s quick innings was an anomaly.
From the moment Usman Khawaja skied a Kieron Pollard delivery to the heavens, all attention turned to Ponting’s arrival.
The leading run scorer in Australian Test history, who called time on his superb career at the conclusion of the Perth Test against South Africa in December, was surrounded by photographers as he made his way to the wicket.
He appeared in supreme touch early in the innings, carrying on his impressive form from the Big Bash League with the Hobart Hurricanes.
Ponting was prepared to play his way in, not taking any excessive risks and knocking the ball around into the outfield.
That was until he heaved a Dwayne Bravo delivery over the mid-wicket fence with a trademark pull shot, showing a glimpse of the raw power displayed in his match-winning century in the 2003 World Cup final.
Just as he was about to get going, Ponting rocked back to a quicker arm ball from Narine, which zipped along the surface and crashed into the stumps.
A noticeable sigh of disappointment was felt around the ground as Ponting made his exit – to a standing ovation, the second for the day – in honour of his fantastic contribution to Australian cricket.
It was only fitting he shared the crease with Alex Doolan, the fellow Tasmanian he has endorsed to follow in his footsteps into the Australian Test team.
Doolan has been pencilled in as a five-day specialist, but showed he should also be considered in the shorter forms of the game with an eye-catching display.
He was in complete control of the quality bowling attack, accumulating runs with ease and hitting the power button when required.
Only a sensational mid-air catch from Johnson Charles ended his day on 87 from 98 balls.
Another Test contender, Khawaja, pushed his case for a recall to the ODI team with a well-made 69, while unheralded ACT Comets captain Jono Dean made a statement at the top of the order with a dynamic 51 from 40 balls.
However, this was still Ponting’s day.
While it wasn’t the fairytale century fans would have loved to have seen him score, they gave the former Australian skipper the send-off he richly deserved.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.