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Steve Waugh

The Little Master really is human

December 14, 2003

An epic contest looms as we enter the third day of the Adelaide Test, which has so far been highlighted by some exceptional individual performances. We enter the day full of confidence, having claimed some crucial early wickets after putting a solid total on the scoreboard. Without doubt the man who has set the tone for our strong showing has been Ricky Ponting who treated fans to a masterful display of batting in notching his highest-ever Test score and the second double-hundred of his career.

Punter's 242 runs were outstanding and it is clear that over the past year and a half he has taken his batting to another level. The fact that he has scored 10 hundreds from his past 19 innings is enough evidence to suggest he is one of the world's foremost batsmen, up there with our own Matthew Hayden. He is hungry for runs, values his wicket and consistently puts bowlers under pressure with his outstanding running between wickets.

Ricky's running certainly added to the spectacle for those fans lucky enough to be at the Adelaide Oval to witness his innings, in what is fast becoming an intriguing contest. It was pleasing to see Simon Katich, who is playing just his fourth Test, make some runs, as he continues to show people just why he has been held in such high esteem amongst the Australian cricket fraternity for so long. He will take a lot of confidence away from this match, knowing he can make runs on a world stage against a quality attack.

The other highlight with the bat was Jason Gillespie's performance. We always tell our tail-enders to think of themselves as batsmen when they walk to the crease, which is exactly what Dizzy did. He backed his ability and contributed valuable runs in front of his adoring home crowd who loved every minute of his entertaining and unbeaten 48.

From an Indian perspective, a lot can be said about experience, and it was Anil Kumble who proved to his younger team-mates the value of hard work and perseverance after claiming three scalps in his final over to finish with five wickets for the innings. It was not the best that I have ever seen him bowl, but he has to be admired for the way he goes about his cricket, and his final figures were a true reward for persistence.

Similar traits have been displayed by our own Andy Bichel, who after a forgettable match in Brisbane, bounced back to take three vital wickets and further our strong start. It is fair to say that Bich has been under a lot of public pressure this week, but after getting the nod from the selectors, has shown just why he has been such a valuable part of our side over the past 18 months.

Throughout that period he has had the happy knack of claiming key wickets, just as he did with Sachin today and Brian Lara on several occasions during our tour of the Caribbean. He tends to take his game to a new level whenever he bowls to these greats, and although Indian supporters would have been bitterly disappointed with Sachin's dismissal, perhaps it showed us all that the Little Master really is human after all.

Equally disappointed would be Sourav Ganguly, who batted so well in Brisbane, only to be run-out by Stuart MacGill. Ganguly's scalp was important, but the crease is still occupied by two dangermen, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. We would all have very short memories if we didn't realise what these two can achieve, and if we are to push for victory, then it is vital that we break this partnership early on day three.

This match looks certain to go the distance, and whatever side can hang tough with the ball staying low on the turning Adelaide wicket, is sure to reap the rewards.

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