Record-breaking Ponting hails 'outstanding' win
Ricky Ponting knows the winning feeling better than any other player in the history of Test cricket. But on a day when he broke the records for the most wins by any Test player and the most victories for any Test captain, Ponting called the 170-run triumph over Pakistan one of the team's best in a long while, and praised his young attack for as good a bowling effort as the side had displayed in the last two years.
When he came in to the team as a young man in the mid 1990s, Australia were just embarking on a decade of dominance. The list of men to have played in the most Test victories is revealing, as the top eight are all Australians of that brilliant era. The win over Pakistan took Ponting to 93, passing Shane Warne's mark of 92.
It also gave Ponting his 42nd success as a Test captain, surpassing Steve Waugh's world record. But since the retirements of Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden and various other golden-era colleagues, things have become much tougher for Ponting. He has lost the Ashes for a second time, succumbed at home to South Africa and seen his team slip as low as fourth on the ICC Test rankings.
If nothing else, the dizzying highs and gut-wrenching lows have given him perspective. And so, after his developing side dominated Pakistan for five days at the MCG, with career-defining efforts from Shane Watson and Nathan Hauritz, Ponting was full of praise for his men. He was especially pleased with the performance of his bowlers, who have for three years struggled in the shadows of Warne and McGrath, and are finally becoming their own men.
"The bowling through the game has been as good as it's been in our team for the last couple of years," Ponting said. "The way we bowled in the first innings in particular was just outstanding. The way we used the new ball and we were able to maintain our discipline and execute our skills over such a long period of time at the start of their first batting innings was a real factor in the game.
"It's been a great game for us. It's one of our best Test wins in quite a while, starting right from the start of the game from the Katich and Watson partnership which really set the platform and set the foundation for a very good Test match for us."
The highlights were many. Watson scored his first Test century on top of 93 in the first innings; Ponting, Simon Katich, Michael Hussey and Hauritz all scored half-centuries; Hauritz collected his maiden five-wicket haul; and Mitchell Johnson continued to regain some of the spark he lost during the Ashes.
Coming after a tightly-contested series against West Indies, the dominant display was well-timed. There's also a bigger future to consider: Australia have only six more Tests before they attempt to regain the Ashes at home next summer. Until then every win, every positive that can be taken from a match, will be seen as a stepping stone.
"We are building a squad of players right at the moment that in a couple of years time are going to be a very dominant team again," Ponting said. "At the moment it is my job to keep the group together and keep challenging them and keep helping the younger guys out and keep winning as many games of cricket as we can."
Ponting was keen to celebrate the individual efforts from several of his newer team-mates at the MCG, but less effusive about his own record-breaking achievements. He said he was proud of the milestones but was unlikely to really appreciate them until he stopped playing.
"They're things I'll probably be most of proud of when I'm done," he said. "We all play to win games of cricket and be involved in a team that is winning games of cricket. They're things I'm very proud of, hopefully there are a lot more wins around the corner and if we play the cricket that we've played over these five days then we will definitely win a lot more games."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo