There's an old saying, often quoted by those who like to take short cuts to gain success - "the ends justify the means" - and I'm afraid this remarkable win in Sydney will turn around journalists and cricket followers, who will bay from the rooftops of the SCG that Ponting is King.
In doing so, they disregard a few essential truths. 1. Ponting should have bowled; 2. 127 was not enough; Australia, as a group, batted badly; 3. Fear and lack of self-belief lost this Test as much as courage and self-belief won it.
The Australia skipper said many things in victory yesterday afternoon which were consistent with the arrogance that we like to call confidence. Asking the press gallery to raise their hands if they had thought Australia would lose, for instance. When the hands went up he said "It comes down to results and we've got a great result here. So I look like a genius where I didn't a couple of days ago." Nothing like humility in victory ... nothing like it! He also claimed that his theory on batting first was he would back his side to score more in the first innings than the opposition did in their second. Do the maths Ricky, you didn't.
Underlining Ponting's remarkable first day choice was a pathetic bating performance by so many of the Australians in the four hours their first innings lasted. Pakistan earned their wickets but Hughes, Ponting, North and Haddin handed their wickets away in the first innings. Of the batsmen, Hussey stood up and then Hauritz and Johnson prevented a complete debacle.
I could rabbit on about Ponting all day as he gives you more than enough ammunition but the bottom line was his decision to bat was a bad one and victory doesn't change that bald fact. Australia didn't win because of anything Ponting did, it won because a small handful of players could find something extra, something beyond that which we expect.
Pakistan batted with great application to lead by more than enough on Day Two and the cascade of wickets late in the day was about quick runs at a time when they perceived themselves safe. It was one of cricket's delicious injustices that Peter Siddle could return 1-61 on a day of guts and great line. The ball must have glanced at the edge twenty five or thirty times as it hurried past to Haddin. He was clearly Australia's best bowler. Had Kamran Akmal been paying attention, he would have seen Haddin catch safely, despite having a sloppy day. Watson held a Dyson like beauty from Faisal Iqbal.
If we are to further our honesty, Australia climbed back into this match on Days 3 & 4 thanks to the continued great form of Shane Watson, who this correspondent has never rated but must now admit has become a fine player. This was his unluckiest near hundred, because it was made under such pressure and in the end, only a viper jumping from the pitch to bite his glove could remove him. The other man of note on Day three was the beleaguered Phil Hughes who played an innings of skill and uncharacteristic graft in his two and a half hour 37. The century opening stand removed half the deficit and restored belief. Ponting, Clarke, North and Haddin all went cheaply again and when the early tail was between Australia's legs, Day 4 dawned a gloomy one.
Then came the extraordinary but not uncommon modern tactics from Pakistan's skipper Mohammad Yousuf. For one hundred and fifty minutes of the lengthened first session, he had keeper and two slips and everyone else signing autographs on the boundary for the first four balls of each over, whenever Hussey faced, gave away a single and attacked Siddle for one or two deliveries. We might attack this tactic and we should but it's a standard for modern Test captains. We watched Ponting do the same against South Africa at this very ground last year. We saw it from both sides in England during the Ashes. It's a tactic born from one day rules which prevent it. Therefore, we shouldn't be barking insults and derogatory dismissal at Pakistan for using the tactic. Yousuf's stupidity was to continue to apply it well after it's useby date had made it rotten. It was a tactic born of a lack of self-confidence. Pakistan were frightened Australia might climb out of the hole and in being so, they passed them a ladder.
Hussey was Hussey for those two hours. Whilst "told-you-so's" were common after play, the one's with the biggest right were the Australia selectors who stuck with Mr Cricket when most had preferred to use short-sightedness as the yardstick. He milked Pakistan's lazy cow until her teats were dry and scored one of cricket's greatest centuries. At the other end, it was that bloke Siddle who batted with more front than Mae West and whether or not the numbers stacked up, this was his best Test innings. A better bat than Johnny Watkins but not as good as Bob Massie, he called on both of their SCG ghosts to maintain his composure at the centre wicket and do what he does best - get the job done. There's something about Victorians isn't there?
Faced with a moderate total to defend, Australia was all guts before glory as they kept at the Pakistani's, hoping to sow more discontented seeds among the falling confidence. There were two overs in it, in the end. With Pakistan steaming along at five an over, Johnson found the outside edge of Faisal Iqbal and then two balls later, induced Salmon Butt to glance to ball down the leg side where Brad Haddin took a superb one hander, way off in the distance to his right. The wobbly boot was on but with tea not long after, Pakistan should have settled under Yousuf's experience at the crease. They didn't. Yousuf blazed a lofted drive straight back at Hauritz, who lost bits and pieces from his left hand but somehow held the catch. Two balls later, Mishbar Ul-haq cut a ball straight to Hussey at backward point and the game was Australia's to win.
Ponting gets credits from me for his attacking captaincy on this last day. Attacking is what he does well and he should do it more often.
Hussey picked up MOM but any of Watson, Hauritz or that man Siddle might have. Throw in Johnson who had some telling moments. Churchill said it well ... never have so many owed so much to so few. Ponting, for the main was not among them and I will maintain, whether asked or not, his decision at the toss was the wrong one. He was saved vilification in the end by a few of his men who love that Baggy Green so much, that they were prepared to expose the bowling balls between their legs and work a miracle.