Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Sydney, 4th day January 6, 2009

'Momentum the key' - Hussey

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Michael Hussey stressed the need to seize the momentum ahead of Australia's return series in South Africa © Getty Images
 

Australia will try to finish off their New Year plan to grab back some momentum from South Africa by ending a disappointing series with a victory ahead of the return series in February. The hosts are 2-0 behind in the three-game contest and held a team meeting before this Test that focused on landing some valuable hits.

So far the method is working with the tourists needing 314 on the final day for an unlikely victory after Australia declared their second innings at 4 for 257. "We've lost this series, but we've got back-to-back series against South Africa," Michael Hussey said after posting 45 not out.

"[The meeting] was about changing the momentum, getting it back our way leading into the series in South Africa. That's what it's been about this Test, hopefully we can finish the job and go into that series with a bit of confidence."

The SCG pitch is difficult for batsmen, although the South Africans were surprised it had not deteriorated more, and Australia's inexperienced attack faces an intriguing assignment to wrap up the match. Ricky Ponting's side lost the first two games from positions of strength, but Hussey was not concerned about negative thoughts creeping in during the final 90 overs.

"I'm not sure about doubts," he said. "I don't think it's as true a batting pitch in Sydney as it was in Perth. We can take some confidence out of that. From our point of view, it's good to put ourselves in a position to win. We're not trying to play for a draw, or save a game. If we're good enough we can win a Test."

South Africa finished the fourth day at 1 for 62 after losing the stand-in opener Morne Morkel in the second over. "It would have been nice to get more than one, but we do have one," Hussey said. "We're not sure if Graeme Smith will be able to bat, so maybe effectively we have two. "

The South Africa coach Mickey Arthur could not rule out an appearance from Smith, who has a broken bone in his left hand. "I doubt Graeme will come out," Arthur said. "If there is one or two overs to see out to a draw, or one or two to win, we're going to need a chain to chain him down in the dressing room. I'm not taking the possibility out of the occasion, but it's highly, highly unlikely."

Arthur said the side would wait until tea to decide whether victory was worth pursuing. "We're going to play it hour by hour," he said. "If we're unscathed at tea we can offer a proper assault on it. We're looking at saving the Test before we win it."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo