'Reverse-swing will play a part' - Clarke
Michael Clarke believes reverse-swing holds the key to wrapping up the first Test as Australia eye a four-day victory at the MCG. Ricky Ponting set India an unlikely 499 to win and the visitors have the added disadvantage of surviving on a slow pitch offering low bounce.
Clarke top scored for Australia with 73 in their 7 for 351 declared and found the late movement and sluggish surface challenging during his 113-ball stay. "At times it was difficult, it's really hard to start your innings," he said. "Once the ball gets a bit older and softer it's difficult to score so you have to be as patient as possible."
Stuart Clark gained significant movement in the first innings and Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson are also capable of causing swing problems for India, who survived the eight overs before stumps without losing a wicket. "Once the ball gets older reverse-swing will play a part, and all three bowlers are good exponents of it," Clarke said. "When the ball is reverse-swinging it's very hard because you don't know which way it's going. And when the ball gets soft India will find it hard to score.
"I'd like to say India have no chance, but they need 493 runs, so the reality is they can get it. But if we bowl well and hold our chances there's a possibility we could win it [on day four]."
India struggled to 196 in the first innings and Harbhajan Singh blamed India's lack of practice matches for the poor performance. The only lead-up fixture, against Victoria in Melbourne, was washed out and the players face a severe task to save the game.
"We didn't get much time, we didn't get any side game," Harbhajan said of the preparation. "It's totally different conditions for batsmen and bowlers so it takes time for people to adjust on these sorts of wickets. That was the reason we got out in the first innings. The last time we showed our batsmen can bat for long times and if they just play to their potential they can definitely surprise."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo