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Friday, 17 August, 2001, 06:52 GMT 07:52 UK
Ricky makes most of reprieve
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew writes for Sport Online
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew reflects on the contentious umpiring decision and poor England bowling on the first day of the fourth Test.

A controversial umpiring decision, which reprieved Ricky Ponting before he had scored, helped Australia to dominate the opening day of the fourth Test.

Ponting edged Andrew Caddick very low to third slip where Mark Ramprakash appeared - to the naked eye - to scoop up the ball and take the catch.

Certainly, the fielder believed that it was a legitimate catch but Ponting, as is his right, stood his ground and umpire Venkat referred the decision to the third umpire.

As is virtually always the case, the technology simply did not provide a clear enough picture and the more replays that were shown, so the doubts inevitably increase.

Ricky Ponting celebrates his century against England
Ricky rejoices: Ponting celebrates his century
Rightly, under the circumstances, Neil Mallender gave Ponting the benefit of the doubt, which will ensure that a batsman will never again accept a fielder's word.

It was the stroke of fortune that Ponting needed and having averaged only 13 in eight tests in 2001, he made a superb century.

This was the Ponting who batted so ruthlessly in the NatWest one-day series rather than the twitchy, nervous individual who failed in the first three Tests and it should end any doubts about his place in the team.

It was around about this time that England - not for the first time this series - completely lost the plot.

On a pitch that was generally slow but offered just enough to keep a persevering bowler interested, they switched to what can only be described as modern-day bodyline.

Mark Waugh was bombarded with short bowling but, worse than this, the field that was set gave the bowlers no other option.

 Mark Waugh of Australia hits out during the first day of the fourth Test
Bodlyine revisited: Gough bowls at Mark Waugh
There was not a fielder in front of the bat between cover point and square leg, which meant that anything pitched up, would be driven for four.

It was poor, senseless cricket not least because Waugh knew precisely what was going to be bowled at him and he could set himself before the bowler even let the ball go.

The pitch has played considerably better than it looks. Predominately grassy, there are also large bare patches and one of these, in particular, might cause England real problems when they come to bat.

This is located bang on a length on the line of the leg stump: perfect, in other words, for Shane Warne.

This is why Adam Gilchrist decided to bat first and already well on the way to a substantial score, Australia are very much in control.

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