|Ricky Ponting plays a slashing cut shot. Photo: Wayne Taylor
The absurd overtook the quirky when first Shane Watson was run out in unusual circumstances by his batting partner Simon Katich just short of his maiden test century then Katich was also denied a century when he was dismissed for 98. It was the third time each of them had been dismissed within a breath of reaching a century this summer.
Katich, dismissed for 99 in Perth in the last test and 92 in Brisbane, was caught in gully for 98. Watson meanwhile was run out for 93, having made 89 in the last test in Perth and 96 in Adelaide. But it was the manner of his departure that compounded his upset at missing out on his first century - run out in confusing almost comical circumstances.
In this unusual summer where Australia continues to dominate the opposition with the bat, no Australian seems capable of passing the personal milestone and making a century. In this the fourth test of the summer Australian bats have now passed 50 eighteen times without reaching 100. One of those 18, Ricky Ponting, was caught at slip shortly after the new ball was taken half an hour before stumps for 57 from just 60 balls.
Despite Ponting's disappointment - after fighting to overcome injury to retain his place in the side - and the tragicomedy of the day's play for the opening pair, Australia finished at stumps emphatically on top at 3/305 with Mike Hussey 37 not out and nightwatchman Nathan Hauritz unbeaten on 5.
But the day was marked by the theatrically weird when Simon Katich was dismissed in the nineties for the third time this summer, and Shane Watson was left shy of his maiden test century - also for the third time this summer - in bizarre almost implausible circumstances.
Australia 1st innings
SR Watson run out (S/Imran Farhat) 93
SM Katich c Salman Butt b M.Asif 98
RT Ponting* c M.Haq b M.Asif 57
MEK Hussey not out 38
NM Hauritz not out 05
Extras (b 1, lb 8, nb 5) 14
Total (3 wickets; 90 overs) 305 (3.38 runs per over)
To bat MJ Clarke, MJ North, BJ Haddin†, MG Johnson, DE Bollinger, PM Siddle
Fall of wickets1-182 (Watson, 60.1 ov), 2-233 (Katich, 74.3 ov), 3-291 (Ponting, 83.2 ov)
Bowling: Mohammad Asif 21-4-69-2, Mohammad Aamer 19-6-52-0 (5nb), Abdur Rauf 15-2-61-0. Saeed Ajmal 32-3-101-0, Imran Farhat 3-0-13-0