A problem of plenty

It's not easy choosing Ricky Ponting's best knocks from several defining innings.

It's tough to pick favourites in a a career that spanned 17 years and contained 71 international centuries. It was around Ricky Ponting reassured and prolific presence at No.3 that Australia's dominance of Test and ODI cricket was centered. Here's a look at some of the most significant knocks by one of the greatest Test players of all time. The compilation also includes two ODI knocks: a blazing century that drove a stake into the heart of India in the 2003 World Cup final, and another equally tempestuous hundred against South Africa in what is considered to be the greatest ODI ever.

96 on debut vs Sri Lanka (Perth, 1995): A century on debut is an auspicious thing. But Ponting was deprived of one by an iffy leg-before call. His 96 set up Australia innings win over Sri Lanka and Ponting should actually consider himself lucky he progressed that far in his first Test. He had stepped out to Mutiah Muralitharan on the first ball he faced and almost finished with a golden duck on debut.

127 vs England (Leeds, 1997): A maiden hundred is always special and if it comes on a player's Ashes debut the cheer is doublemultiplied. Two years into his debut, Ponting finally got to three figures in a Test match against old rivals England. Ponting got together with Mathew Elliot, another Ashes debutant, and resurrected Australiafrom 50 for four with a timely stand. Punter was batting at No.6 and his rearguard with Elliot allowed Australia to post an innings win in the match.

140 vs India (World Cup final, Johannesburg, 2003): Ponting struck eight merciless sixes during one of the most decisive knocks played in international cricket. He played himself in and then accelerated dazzlingly towards the end, as Australia piled up a massive 359/2. India stood no chance after that. A captain's knock in a World Cup final: what more could an Australian fan have asked for?

257 vs India (Melbourne, 2003): Back to back double centuries are a rare achievement. Ponting did prescisely this against India. He followed up his 242 at Adelaide with another exercise in accumulation at the Boxing Day Test. India batted first and posted 366 through Virender Sehwag's 195. That was the last of India's success. Ponting and Hayden pulverized the visotors with a huge 234-run stand for the second wicket as Ponting raised his highest Test score. Australia won by nine wickets.

206 vs West Indies (Port-of-Spain, 2003): This tour was a dream for Ponting. He ran up scores of 117, 42 not out, 206, 45 and 113. The double century was his first and along with tons from Darren Lehmann and Adam Gilchrist, helped Australia post 576 in the first innings.Exploiting the perfect batting conditions, Ponting was in the middle for over eight hours as he flayed Mervyn Dillon and Pedro Collins. Australia eventually won by 118 runs.

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156 vs England (Manchester, 2005):
Ricky Ponting believed in leading from the front. Faced with a huge England first innings total of 444, Australia conceded a big lead and were eventually set a victory target of 422 on a pitch where Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss had scored sparkling hundreds. Australia collapsed, losing Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer cheaply. But Ponting rallied the lower order around him, scoring a 272-ball 256 as the visitors hung in there eo enforce a draw.

164 in 105 balls versus South Africa (Wanderers, 2006): Imagine a batsman pounding nine sixes and 13 fours on his way to a big hundred.Imagine his team ending with the biggest ever total in ODIs. Now imagine both efforts finishing on the losing side. Ponting's tearaway hundred allowed Australia to post 434 in 50 overs. But it was eclipsed by Herschelle Gibbs 111-ball 175 as South Africa chased down the target with a ball to spare.
120 & 143* vs South Africa (Sydney, 2006): Another landmark came his way when Ponting made twin centuries in his 100th Test match. His first innings 120 took Australia closer to South Africa's first innings 451, and the brisk 143 not out in the second essay helped them overhaul the target. The win gave Australia a 2-0 series lead, but was achieved because of South Africa's sporting second innings declaration. Australia were required to score 288 runs in two sessions, which they did easily through their attacking skipper.

196 vs England (Brisbane, 2006): In the last edition, Australia had lost the coveted urn for the first time since 1989 under Ponting. But the Aussie skipper fought back in the opening Test of the 2006 series. Australia batted first and amassed 602, thanks to the captain's pivotal hundred. He flayed an attack comprising Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, James Anderson and Andrew Flintoff, spending 464 minutes at the crease to set up a 277 run-win for Australia. The hosts went on to complete a 5-0 whitewash.

103 & 116 vs South Africa (Durban, 2006): Another landmark Test for Ponting. The 103 was his 30th century and his second innings stand of 201 with Mathew Hayden took the game away from South Africa. Ponting's 30th also helped him overtake Don Bradman in the list of all-time century-makers. The twin-ton feat also made him the second player, after Sunil Gavaskar, to score centuries in each innings of a Test three times.