Ricky Ponting's 100th Test win arrived in the nick of time to allow him to fly home for the birth of his second child, which will rule him out of the second Test starting in Kandy on Thursday. The reserve batsman Shaun Marsh is set to make his debut, while David Warner, previously seen as a Twenty20 specialist, will join the group as a standby player.
Ponting's wife Rianna is pregnant and medical advice that the birth was imminent had Ponting booked to board a plane home hours after the tourists completed a 125-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first Test in Galle. Ponting will remain at home for about a week and is hoping to be back in time for the third Test.
"Rianna had another scan on Tuesday and the doctor believes it's going to be [due] in the next few days, so I've been keen to get this Test match over pretty quickly and get a flight out tonight," Ponting said. "I'll then get back Sunday night, so I'm pretty sure the little one will come a couple of days after I've got back hopefully.
"Hopefully the baby comes in the next couple of days and hopefully I'll be around for a few days and hopefully be able to get them out of hospital and be back in time to get prepared to play the third Test. As the tour's worn on, one thing I didn't want to do if at all possible was miss the birth, and Rianna's started to struggle a little more the last few days so she just needs me home at the moment."
Reflecting on his feat in becoming the first man to participate in 100 Test wins, Ponting said each victory had gained in significance for him as the Australian team began its transition from an all-conquering unit to the battling group of 2011.
"You always do [appreciate them more], yeah," Ponting said. "My proudest moment as captain was walking off the field in Durban [in 2009] when we beat South Africa over there. That was with a very young team. That was the proudest moment of my captaincy, and I think Michael [Clarke] will say something similar now.
"Michael's played in a lot of Test wins as well, but take away the fact this was his first Test as captain, I think anytime you teak a young team onto the ground and you can win a game I'm sure it's something we can all be proud of. It goes to show things aren't all doom and gloom in Australian cricket, and if we play the way this group knows it can play I'm sure we'll be competitive over the next few weeks as well.
"It's been a great week for this team, for us to eke out as many runs as we did in the first innings set the game up for us, but a lot of good things have happened this week, not just my thing, Michael's first Test as captain, and a couple of the debutants playing a big role in the result as well. It's been an enjoyable week."
Clarke's tribute to his predecessor was warm.
"We just had a toast in the changing room and I think there was about eight or nine of us that it's their first Test match win, that includes support staff, and for Punter it's his 100th," Clarke said. "It's a very special victory for Punter. I think the one thing I've always said is a great player is determined by his longevity and Ricky's played a hell of a lot of Test cricket, scored a hell of a lot of Test runs and captained a hell of a lot of Test victories as well.
"He's an amazing player. His bowling wasn't even too bad yesterday."