As you savour what looks a battle royal across the Tasman this month, starting on Friday, keep a special eye on two of the alltime greats as they strive to once again to hold back time.

Late next week, the third wheel in this late-30s triumvirate steps out to try to show his time has not completely run out. First off, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis, who'll be in Brisbane for the start of Australia's series against world No1 South Africa.

Ponting is not the spanking batsman of yore, although two centuries against an admittedly weak India early this year quietened the critics for a time. As with both Kallis and Sachin Tendulkar, it is a question of time for Ponting. Can he still roar as he once did? If he fails in Brisbane, expect the heat to be turned up.

Of the three, Kallis is best placed to carry on longest. His technique is terrific and can get him out of sticky situations. His temperament is formidable. Kallis and Ponting made their test debuts within days of each other 17 years ago. Expect him to be around until at least the 2015 World Cup. Fitness permitting, astute periods of rest should see to that.


You would not venture the same for Tendulkar. His old mates Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, who helped him comprise the most formidable middle order in the game's history, have gone. He is being bowled by players, with due respect, he'd have despatched with some comfort in his pomp.

Tendulkar has not made 30 in his last seven innings; his last century was 26 innings ago. Still, on his shoulders will rest much of a less-than-convincing Indian batting lineup's hopes at Ahmedabad in the first test against England late next week.

The problem for Indian officials is when, and how, to say farewell - or to put it more accurately, how to persuade him to say goodbye. In India, this is not as straightforward as it is in other countries. Riots have begun on far flimsier grounds. But it's coming. Enjoy this ageing trio of legends - 510 tests, 41,520 runs and 113 years between them - because the clock is ticking.