Perfect for Ponting - Botham
By Tim Hobbs
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Ian Botham hailed Ricky Ponting's performance on the first day of the Ashes series.
Ian Botham hailed a perfect performance from Ricky Ponting as Australia got off to a first-day flyer in the Ashes.
The man they call Punter plundered an unbeaten 137 from 206 balls as the home side put England on the back foot in Brisbane.
Australia ended the day on 340-6 and although there was some indifferent bowling from the tourists, Botham refused to take anything away from the man ranked the number one batsman in the world.
"It was a masterful innings," Botham told Sky Sports. "He knew how important it was not just to himself, but his side, to get a good start.
"He won the toss and made the most of it. It's all well and good having a gameplan, but you've got put it into action.
"It was a magnificent knock. He's done his side proud, they'll be delighted - and with the guys around him, who all got 50 partnerships."
Ponting admitted that Australia were in command from the very first ball of the series - a Steve Harmison wide that was taken at second slip - as they made their usual fast start.
Justin Langer weighed in with a rapid 82 at the top of the innings, while Michael Hussey was undefeated on 63 in a fourth-wicket stand of 148 with his skipper.
Botham was less than impressed with the English attack, Andrew Flintoff aside, but believes some of that was down to the way Ponting put the bowlers under pressure on his way to his 32nd Test century.
"He latches onto anything short, very quickly," he said. "He's looking for it as well, that's the way he plays. He sets up bowlers to try to get them to change their line to him throughout."
The one bright spot for England was the form of skipper Flintoff.
The all-rounder quashed any fears that his long-term injury would prevent him from bowling at full pelt, by taking the wickets of Langer and Matthew Hayden in a spell of 16-2-48-2.
And while Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Jimmy Anderson failed to make an impact, Botham believes Flintoff's form was a reason for England to be cheerful.
"I thought he bowled magnificently," he said. "He came on when England were in all kinds of trouble. To me, it looked like a lot of the players were already looking down.
"They were a little flat when he came on, but the captain has led from the front. I think he'll do a great job in this series. He bowled cleverly today, in short spells of five or six overs, and of course took two wickets."