Brian Charles Lara and Ricky Thomas Ponting are two contemporary greats in Test match batting (not that they have not done well in ODIs).
Lara and Ponting have a compact stance, but the back lift of each is high. This high back lift enabled them to be great players of the short balls. Not many cricketers have such high back lifts (which is a very important aspect of batting).
Lara made his debut at 21 while Ponting, known as Punter, started his career a little earlier at 20. Lara made a decent debut whilst Ponting was unlucky to have got a wrong decision when batting on 96!
Lara came into limelight with his maiden Test hundred, a swashbuckling 277 against the Aussies at Sydney in 1993. He later named his daughter Sydney in memory of that hundred and ground. Ponting too had to wait for almost two years to get his first hundred which came against the English at Leeds in 1997.
Lara, nicknamed The Prince of Trinidad, is the only player in the history of cricket to have scored a hundred, double hundred, triple hundred, quadruple hundred and a 500! Punter is yet to get to a triple hundred although he has four double hundreds to his credit.
Lara has a staggering nine double hundreds, which is behind only Sir Don Bradman who had 12! Lara retired with 34 test hundreds while Punter has 37 hundreds and is still going strong.
Both the batsman have got hundreds against all Test playing nations and have averages of more than 50. Lara is more than a thousand runs ahead of Ponting but it's just a matter of time before Ponting overtakes the south paw.
These two possess the ability to demolish the attack (I feel Lara was better in that) with some brilliant stroke play. Ponting may not seem as destructive but both the batsmen have almost similar strike rates too!
Lara's 153 not out at Bridgetown against the Aussies was considered the second best knock in the history of cricket by Wisden when it published a top 100 list in July 2001. Ponting may not have such records but we should not forget he is still an active player.
Lara won the Wisden cricketer of the year for 1995 but Ponting has been more consistent with these awards. He won the ICC Player of the Year for 2006 and 2007 along with ICC Test Player of the Year for 2003, 2004 and 2006.
Lara became the batsman to score the largest proportion (53.83 per cent) of his team's runs in a Test (221 out of 390 and 130 out of 262) against the Sri Lankans in 2001-02. He made an astounding 688 runs from six innings and still Windies managed to lose the series 3-0. The total runs amasses was equal to 42% of the total runs scored by the team.
Ponting has the unique feat of scoring a hundred in each innings of a Test match thrice, including his 100th match.
Another important common area was slip catching. Both were excellent slip fielders and good fielders otherwise too. Lara's 164 to Ponting's 147 is a clear indication of that.
Lara was more or less in a team that was struggling for a long time with sudden flashes of brilliance whereas Ponting has been in the best team throughout his career. This is probably the fine line between these two artists.
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