Australia v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Hobart, 3rd day January 16, 2010

Australia wonder when to declare

Dismissing the tail has been a worry for Australia over the past year and a last-wicket partnership again forced a change to the team's plans. Ricky Ponting spoke on the second day about his desire to enforce the follow-on but a 53-run stand between Pakistan's final pair, Umar Gul and Mohammad Asif, altered all that and Ponting decided to bat again with a 218-run advantage.

Australia must now juggle the weather - showers are forecast on the fourth afternoon - with their lead, which stands at 277, and calculate how long they will need to dismiss Pakistan a second time. On a good pitch, with an attack that took 105.4 overs to do the job in the first innings, Ponting will need a touch of clairvoyance to make the call.

"It's still a very good wicket, so that's going to be the biggest challenge, leaving ourselves enough time to bowl them out again," Simon Katich, who was unbeaten on 33, said at stumps. "We felt that there might be a bit of weather in the next couple of days but from all reports [Sunday] is supposed to be okay. You just have to wait and see.

"Traditionally down here, sometimes the wicket does get better and better, so it's still very good to bat on. There's a little bit of spin and a few balls are keeping a bit lower now, but on the whole it's still a very good batting wicket. I think it's probably going to be based more on time. It might be a case that Pakistan might feel they're a chance to get the runs. If both teams think they can win the game I guess it helps to draw a result out."

One of the key men in Pakistan's efforts to save the match will be Salman Butt, who batted for 333 minutes and scored his third Test century to help Pakistan reach 301. Butt was confident the visitors would be able to work hard for a positive outcome on a surface that didn't display too many demons on the third day.

"I think this particular pitch looks to behave better than most other pitches we've played on, on the third day," Butt said. "Hopefully it's a bit better. Definitely on the fifth day and by the end of the fourth day the bounce will vary a bit more - it also happened today in the morning - and that's what you expect on a five-day pitch so you have to play much straighter."

Butt and Shoaib Malik put on 129 for the fifth wicket but it wasn't until the final partnership that Ponting decided not to make Pakistan follow-on. Gul and Asif came in 17 minutes before the scheduled tea break and survived not only for that time, but also beyond the extra half hour that Australia took as they aimed to finish off the innings before the interval.

"If we'd knocked them over pretty quickly there and had a lead of say 270, 280, there would have been a good chance we might have been back out there bowling," Katich said. "But the way it's panning out I still think there's plenty of time left in the game with two days left. Hopefully the weather will hold."

The forecast is for showers developing during the fourth afternoon and further showers on the fifth day, easing later in the day. Rain was also predicted on Saturday but didn't arrive, although nearly two hours after stumps dark clouds were hovering ominously over the city.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo