Shaky Pakistan hope for rain after Katich ton
Pakistan 301 and 4 for 103 need another 335 runs to beat Australia 8 for 519 dec and 5 for 219 dec (Katich 100, Ponting 89)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
On a day of inevitabilities, Australia moved within six wickets of completing a clean-sweep against a disappointing Pakistan. Simon Katich scored his first century of the summer, Ricky Ponting recorded his highest aggregate in a Test and Pakistan's top order looked shakier than the few yachts brave enough to take to the Derwent River on a gloomy, windy and eventually rainy Hobart day.
Since Pakistan's capitulation in Sydney, it seemed inevitable that they would struggle to lift themselves for the dead rubber at Bellerive Oval. At the start of the fourth day, the most likely scenario was for Australia to add quickly to their overnight score and bat until after lunch, and Pakistan's batsmen to struggle and rain to play a part as the afternoon wore on. And so it unfolded.
Pakistan entered this Test with only two men averaging more than 40 for the series and until Salman Butt's first-innings century the best score by any of their players was his 71 at the SCG. Australia fancied their chances against the Pakistan order despite the forecast showers, and gave them a victory target of 438 from just under five sessions.
A win for Australia would be their 12th consecutive triumph against Pakistan, equalling the record for any team over any other Test side, which is currently held by Sri Lanka over Bangladesh. It came closer when Pakistan lost both openers within the first ten overs, then the captain and best batsman Mohammad Yousuf with the score on 61, and the young star Umar Akmal with the total at 4 for 83.
When the rain came an hour before the scheduled close, Pakistan were 4 for 103, needing an extremely unlikely 335 more for victory, with Khurram Manzoor on 23 and Shoaib Malik on 18. Yousuf and Akmal both fell lbw to Shane Watson, both had their decisions reviewed, and neither finished with the result he desired. Earlier, Butt failed to keep out a Doug Bollinger delivery and was bowled for 9, before Peter Siddle drew an edge behind from Imran Farhat (14) to begin Pakistan's slump.
The day had been yet another ugly one for them even before their innings began. Ponting and Katich added 141 in a brutal opening session as Pakistan continued to set defensive fields and waited for a declaration. Katich has had trouble reaching triple-figures this season and had posted scores of 92, 80, 99 and 98.
He hadn't scored a hundred since the Ashes opener in Cardiff and when he moved to 99, Pakistan tried to increase the pressure, but he found an easy single behind square on the leg side to register his century from 137 deliveries. In the next over, Katich holed out to deep midwicket off Danish Kaneria and departed for an even 100, his ninth Test century.
Playing with the freedom of having a hefty buffer, Katich took a more aggressive approach than normal and struck 13 fours in his 138 balls. Ponting also went after the bowling during their 191-run stand and was happy to be inventive, driving in the air over fielders and taking balls from outside off to the leg side.
Ponting failed to become the seventh batsman in Test history to score a double-century and a century in the same match when he departed for 89 on the fourth ball after lunch. He tried to sweep Malik and was taken down the legside by Sarfraz Ahmed, and the umpire's not-out decision was overturned on review when Hot Spot showed the ball brushed Ponting's glove.
He did finish with his best aggregate of runs in a Test match, scoring 298 and beating by ten his previous best set against India in Melbourne in 2003-04. After his dismissal, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson came in as pinch-hitters but failed to have any impact and Australia lost 4 for 27 starting with Katich.
It didn't matter. Ponting already felt he had enough and declared at 5 for 219, setting Pakistan 438 to win. Yousuf's men need either a deluge of rain or runs to save them and only their most ardent fans could expect it to be the latter.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo