Needing 98 for victory and with five wickets in hand, with their champion batsman at the wicket, the Indians were fancying their chances of a famous victory over Australia in the fourth afternoon at the Gabba.
Tears are not something normally associated with Ricky Ponting. Black eyes, yes, in his early days. Black looks, certainly, throughout 17 combative summers wearing the baggy green cap.
Yet tears were the order of the day when Ponting called stumps on a career second only to Don Bradman in Australia’s Test cricket annals.
There were tears from the man himself, tears from his shocked teammates and tears at a news conference from his successor as captain, Michael Clarke.
They haven’t flowed like this since Kim Hughes stepped down in 1984, for entirely different reasons.
The emotional outpouring this time gushed from a deep wellspring of respect for one of sport’s toughest and most successful fighters, spurred by the recognition that such a man walks this way but rarely.
Perhaps it shows that Australian cricket has a soft centre after all. But like one of those hard-boiled gob-stoppers, you have to suck on it for days on end to find out.
Ponting became a byword for everything that made Australia the toughest team in world cricket.
He was feisty, flinty, chirpy, pug-nosed, at times belligerent, always super-competitive.
He could scowl as well as he could bat. Then again, he had an impressive tutor in Steve Waugh.
Ponting didn’t play a Test on his first tour, but it may well have provided him with the attitudinal bedrock for all the success that followed.
It was the pivotal 1995 series in the West Indies, where Australia won the Sir Frank Worrell Trophy for the first time in 19 years and Waugh famously went nose-to-nose with Curtley Ambrose.
What an education for an Australian captain-to-be.
By a quirk of fate, Ponting will equal but not surpass Waugh’s Australian record of 168 Tests when he winds up in Perth next week.
That statistic would not have influenced his decision to pull the pin – he’s not that soft.
But it is a fetching numerical curiosity, in the way that Mark Taylor’s declaration on 334 not out against Pakistan in 1998 was a nod to the greatness of Bradman.
Statistics can often mislead, but in Ponting’s case they don’t lie.
He stands as Australia’s greatest Test run-scorer ever, and second in the world only to Sachin Tendulkar.
You don’t amass over 13,300 runs at a 52 average over 17 years unless you are one of the very best the game has ever produced.
He is cricket’s most successful Test captain, having won 48 of 77 matches, with a similar record of success in the one-day game, including two World Cup triumphs in 2003 and 2007.
Yet he goes out as the only captain to have lost three Ashes series, one of the few things that will no doubt rankle him in the old cricketers’ retirement home.
Could he have carried on? Potentially.
But Ponting decided to go of his own accord before anyone could tap him on the shoulder.
All good things come to an end. Like the tough cane-cutters in Ray Lawler’s Australian classic, this is his Summer Of The 17th Doll.