Wednesday 23 June 2010

Face value

To the Rose Bowl, for an implausibly perfect summer day in the Hamble Valley, cradle of the game, the kind of day that you bat on in your dreams. The game was won by a dream of an innings too. The prime currency in the new age of batting is power, but yesterday, power alone was not enough. Rapier thrusts were what counted.

The last time I saw the captain of Australia in the flesh, he was walking down the street. Yesterday, before the game, he took some throw downs right in front of us. For anyone who loves batting, it was worth the price of admission alone. He brought a couple of bats, and, with one pad on, began drilling the ball back past the thrower. The first bat went okay, but when he switched to the second, the ball started to ring from it. With small turns of the face, he hit balls of exactly the same length and direction in an arc from cover to mid on.

Shane Watson, a new brutalist, had a go after Ponting, and he struck the ball harder, but each of his just ran straight back past the thrower. After a while he lumbered off, none the wiser about his game.

Ponting had a couple of purely struck boundaries before he fell hook-pulling [again], but Eion Morgan showed exactly the value of being able to control the bat face as England glided home. Gripping right down at the base of the handle, he slid the ball through ridiculously narrow gaps in the field without raising his bat above the horizontal. Ponting knew Australia were done way before the end, and he knew he couldn't stop it, either.

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