'As good a feeling as I've ever had on a cricket field' - Ponting
Steve Waugh used to complain when he was captain that Australia's major achievements were always overshadowed by some sort of controversy. Ricky Ponting is unlikely to protest about the issues of race, umpiring and spirit of cricket taking the attention away from his team's outstanding run of 16 consecutive victories, which equalled Waugh's world mark.
Ponting's main aim was winning the game rather than grabbing the record and the success was achieved with a gamble on Michael Clarke, who captured three dramatic wickets in the scheduled second-last over of the day. The 122-run win, which retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, was sealed with seven balls remaining and Ponting celebrated as joyously as during his Ashes and World Cup victories.
"My overall emotion and feeling at the end of the game was as good a feeling as I've ever had on a cricket field," Ponting said. "Winning a Test like that, coming down to the last eight or ten minutes on the fifth day, any Test you win then is going to be pretty special. For us to be able to do it after a 70-run deficit in the first innings, and probably not play our best until the second innings, makes this win as good as any that I've played.''
India were on track to seal a draw with two overs remaining, but Ponting's hunch on Clarke paid off in spectacular style. "He actually said to me when I gave him the ball: `I've got about just enough time to win us the game here.' He's always had a fair bit of confidence in himself.''
Harbhajan Singh edged to Michael Hussey at slip from the first ball of the over, RP Singh was given out lbw by Mark Benson to the next delivery and the match ended when Ishant Sharma prodded to Hussey. "The last 30 or 40 minutes were about gambling, about rolling the dice," Ponting said. "I tried most guys there in that last hour and a half. I had to do that just to see who the batsmen would find the hardest to play at that time. It looked like the faster bowlers were easier to play than the spinners."
Ponting delayed his declaration until 15 minutes before lunch and only when Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Anil Kumble were stalling the Australians during a 45-run stand did he worry about a draw. A nominal target of 333 in 72 overs had been set and Ponting wanted only one team to have a chance of winning.
"It was a pretty tough one to get right," he said. "I didn't know exactly what was the right amount of runs and the right amount of overs. I was conscious not to set anything that was going to be too easy for the Indians to chase."
Talk of the streak, which Australia will attempt to expand in Perth from January 16, was secondary - "There was no motivational talk about winning 16 straight - but Ponting was confident of collecting No. 17. "We go to Perth on a wicket and conditions that should suit us a lot more than the Indians," he said. "After two great wins like we've had we can obviously go to Perth pretty confident.'' Matthew Hayden is in doubt for the game with the right thigh injury that prevented him from fielding in the second innings.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo