'We're still in it' - Shane Watson
Australia's aura may have vanished over the past year but the players' self-confidence remains untainted, with Shane Watson insisting the team still has a chance of victory. Pakistan have controlled the second Test for three days and should level the series on Wednesday after the hosts scrambled to an 80-run lead by finishing at 8 for 286.
Michael Hussey, who reached an unbeaten 73, is the last major hope and will have Peter Siddle (10) and Doug Bollinger as his only allies. "I definitely think we're still in it," Watson said. "It's obviously not a day that we really were hoping for. It would have been nice to get 200 in front, but while Hussey and Siddle are there we are still a chance to get, hopefully, best-case scenario, 150 ahead. It would be a target that if everyone goes well and bowls well, it gives us an opportunity to win the game."
Watson was the standout batsman with his smooth 97 and after the strong performance showed he was a student of the history of his adopted home ground. He remembered the time in 1993-94 when a team was bowled out in the fourth innings for 111 at the SCG in a chase of 117. The only problem was that it was Australia doing the tumbling that day.
"We've got to still give ourselves a chance to try and have a decent enough target to bowl at," he said. "The wicket is still doing a bit, the new ball is still seaming and bouncing and some are keeping a bit low, there's still enough there for the bowlers."
The legspinner Danish Kaneria provided the main trouble for Australia with 4 for 117 before hobbling off shortly before the end with cramp, but Australia have the bigger impediment. Starting their second innings 206 runs behind, their journey was always uphill, but after Watson and Phillip Hughes (37) put on 105 there was hope of the 400-plus total needed to scare the Pakistanis.
While only three wickets had fallen when the deficit was wiped out, the problems began with Michael Clarke's exit, lbw to Mohammad Asif on 21, and in 18 overs Australia lost 5 for 40. "The way Phil and I started I thought we were going to be able to bat the way we wanted to," Watson said, "but we weren't able to string the bigger partnerships together."
Unless rain or a Hussey-inspired miracle intervenes, the hosts will end their ten-match winning streak against Pakistan, the world's No.6 side, and continue their recent trend of losing momentum as soon as they start looking good. The ruthless Melbourne win was last week, but it was also a year ago.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo