SYDNEY (Reuters) - In the end it was anything but imperious, a risky single that left Ricky Ponting sprawled in the dirt of the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Having waited two years since he last had three figures next to his name on a test scoreboard, however, the pugnacious Tasmanian cared not a jot.
When he realised that Zaheer Khan’s throw had missed the stumps, he picked himself up, brushed the dust off his shirt and raised both arms to accept a standing ovation from the 30,000 crowd.
In 245 minutes and 150 balls in the second test against India, the third most prolific test batsman of all time had ended his long wait for his 40th test century Wednesday.
“I know that I was probably out by two yards if the ball hit the stumps,” the 37-year-old told reporters. “Bit of brain fade I guess, I hit it through the gap and it just got to him quicker than I thought it would.
“Thankfully he missed or it would have a pretty sad end to what could have been a good day.
“But I got up and my shirt was pretty much destroyed, my grill was pressed against my face and I was spitting out bits of the wicket so I could try and smile.
“But look, when you reach triple figures in a test match, it’s a pretty special feeling and thankfully that’s the first time I’ve had to do it in those circumstances.”
The century ended a tough two years for Ponting, who has relinquished the Australia captaincy and faced repeated calls for an end to be brought to his test career since he scored 209 against Pakistan in January 2010 in Hobart.
“I’ve had to work exceptionally hard, harder than ever on certain technical aspects of my game,” he said.
“The thing that’s starting to come back is getting that real rhythm back about my batting again, feeling at ease in the crease.
“It’s amazing when you’re going through a lean trot, how many little things creep into your head and get in the way of what you’re trying to do.
“I’ve had a real clear mind this week, knowing that the things I’ve been doing are starting to come good for me.”
The innings came to an end some 20 minutes before tea when Ishant Sharma found some bounce with the new ball and Ponting sliced it to Sachin Tendulkar at gully for 134.
Tendulkar and his team mate Rahul Dravid are the only two players to have scored more test runs than Ponting but the Australian is peerless at the SCG with 1,480 runs in 16 matches.
As a consummate team man, Ponting was delighted that his century came as part of a partnership with Michael Clarke of 288, a record for Australia in tests against India, to put the team in a strong position in the match.
And having struggled for so long, he was not about to announce the start of an Indian Summer for his career.
“I’m not getting too carried away with it,” he concluded.
“I don’t look too far forward, I don’t think you can afford to in this game. You’ve just got to worry about the next ball and the next chance you get to bat.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford