Comfortable chasing under 300 - Sehwag
Virender Sehwag and Ricky Ponting feel the Test is finely balanced going into the fourth day, which could also prove to be the final one. Ponting said the lead of 230 was already a reasonable one, but he would love for Michael Hussey and the last two to add more. Sehwag said India would be comfortable chasing anything under 300. The highest successful chase at the MCG is 332.
It's the state of the pitch, which has had life for good bowling throughout the three days, across sessions, that makes it interesting. "When you saw their top-order batters come in this morning, they found it difficult to start," Ponting said. "I think our batters found it difficult to start this afternoon as well. There's just enough assistance for the bowlers if you bowl in the right areas for long enough. That's what our target will be tomorrow."
The first target for Australia, though, will be to extend their own innings. "Tomorrow morning is going to be really crucial for us now," Ponting said. "We know that James Pattinson has got some really solid promise with the bat. He's going to have to show that for us tomorrow. And we need Mike Hussey to go on and get a big score and continue to keep pushing the game forward. We're 230 ahead now, which I think is a reasonable total for India to have to chase, but ideally we'd like to make a few more than that."
Ponting said the thickish grass on the pitch made it difficult to bat on. "It's a little bit difficult to start on," he said. "There's a little bit of thickish grass sitting on top of the wicket, so the seam is grabbing into that grass a little bit and makes it a little bit inconsistent. If you get through the first half-hour of your innings, every wicket around the world seems like it's a pretty good wicket. Most of our batters found it tough to get through that today. Hopefully tomorrow we can make it difficult for the Indians as well.
"There hasn't been a lot of spin yet. Ashwin has got a few to be a bit inconsistent, bounce-wise. I guess for a finger-spinner, that's probably as much assistance as turning the ball a lot anyway. I thought Ashwin did a good job for them today, he changes his pace up all the time, he has got a fair bit of variation. I think Nathan Lyon can learn a little bit from that in how he can apply his skills in the second innings."
Sehwag got through that first half hour in the first innings, but ended his innings playing on. He then went on to see three Australians playing on today. "Ball is not coming on to the bat," he said. "It's stopping and coming. Spongy bounce. So batsmen are playing little early, that's why they are getting inside edges."
Sehwag knows his and Gautam Gambhir's contribution will be vital whatever total India are chasing. "It's not just my contribution. It's a team game. [But] Yes it's important for us to give a good start to the team. If we are able to give a good start then we have a very good chance to win the Test match."
Sehwag said he was satisfied with India's day in the field, especially how they came back after the collapse. "It's a good day for India, and the match is evenly balanced," he said. "Any team can win that. We have to work hard tomorrow. If we win the game, we really have to bat well on the fourth and fifth days.
"The bowlers delivered [today]. Especially in first spell, Umesh Yadav and Ishant [Sharma] and Zak [Zaheer Khan], they bowled beautifully. And through the day [R] Ashwin bowled really well. He kept one end up at less than three an over. Overall it was a good day for India." He went on to label India's bowling line-up the best Indian attack he has played with.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo