RICKY Ponting counter-punched in the final session in the opening Ashes Test to salvage some pride before the game was called off with 15 overs to play.
Ponting used the otherwise meaningless final overs of an epic see-sawing match to streak to 51 from 43 balls at the Gabba.
The skipper appeared intent on landing a few psychological blows of his own after England sapped Australia’s self-belief in keeping the locals wicketless today.
Ponting slog-swept Graeme Swann for six and hit Steven Finn’s first two balls to the rope.
Significantly, he middled several cracking pull and hooks shots after having much-publicised issues with the strokes.
Shane Watson batted solidly to finish with 41 from 97 deliveries.
Earlier, Simon Katich was caught at first slip for four from Stuart Broad in the sixth over of the innings.
England’s declaration at 1-517 set Australia a notional 296 from 41 overs to win the game.
Alastair Cook (235) and Jonathan Trott (135) added 329, setting a new high mark for any wicket by any country at this venue.
It seems astonishing the match will finish in a draw given England’s total dominance of the last day and a half.
As if Australia’s day could not have sunk any lower, Ponting was left fuming late in England’s innings after being denied a catch he assured the English and the umpires he took cleanly.
Cook, then on 209, scooped Xavier Doherty to short midwicket, where Ponting dived forward to claim a catch with both hands.
Cook stood his ground and, as is usually the case with such low catches, the replays were inconclusive, meaning the umpires had no choice but to give the batsman the benefit of the doubt.
Ponting protested to umpire Aleem Dar even after the video ruling was made.
Three overs later Ponting dropped Cook at second slip. But had he held it the catch would have rivalled the screamer he took from New Zealander Jamie How from Brett Lee’s bowling in Adelaide two seasons ago.
However good the effort, Ponting’s miss took Australia’s tally of drops to five for the innings.
As the match ambles towards a draw, Australia is grappling with a crisis of confidence heading into the Adelaide Test starting on Friday.
Its first session was blighted with misfields, a dropped catch by Michael Clarke and consecutive four byes conceded by Brad Haddin from Doherty.
Mitchell Johnson’s barren match has continued, with the quick conceding 21 runs in an afternoon four over spell that included a leg-side wide that sprayed to the boundary.
Perversely for the beleaguered quick, the wide was one of very few deliveries Johnson swung for the match.
He finished with match figures of 0-170 from 42 overs and will have to wear calls for Doug Bollinger to replace him in Adelaide, especially after the NSW quick took an early wicket in Perth today.