x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Sehwag eyes good start to take India through as Australia struggle

Ponting scores second half-century in as many innings but rues losing his wicket after getting well set.

Ricky Ponting made a crucial 60 but his wicket triggered a collapse.
Ricky Ponting made a crucial 60 but his wicket triggered a collapse.

MELBOURNE // Virender Sehwag said he is gearing up to give India a solid start after their impending run chase to ensure victory in the opening Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The uninhibited opening batsman will play a key role for the tourists as Australia take a 230-run lead into Thursday's fourth day with two wickets left as they look to add to their lead.

Sehwag, who slammed 67 off 83 balls in the first innings, said India was aiming for a winning target under 300. "I think it was a good day for India. The match is evenly balanced. If we (want to) win the game we will have to bat really well," he said.

"This is the best Indian bowling attack I've ever played with."

"The captain said just go out there and give your best because this is the moment where we expect from the bowlers to bowl in good areas because the wicket is doing something.

"It's important for us to give a good start for the team, then we will have a very good chance to win this Test match."

India conceded a 51-run lead but the Indian bowlers, led by a four-wicket haul from Umesh Yadav, did well to limit the hosts to 179 for eight for the day with only Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey reaching half-centuries.

Batting has not been easy on the drop-in MCG pitch and after three days of play no batsman has yet reached a hundred, although Hussey was unbeaten at 79 on Wednesday.

It left Ponting to rue the missed chance of scoring a hundred and relieving the pressure off him after poor form for two years has led to questions being raised on his career.

Ponting, Australia's most prolific run-scorer in Tests and third all-time, stroked a defiant 60 in a 115-run partnership with Hussey to add to his first innings 62 but his wicket sparked a collapse giving India some hope.

"When you spend that much time in the middle, as a top order batter it's your job to go on make big scores.

"So I'm disappointed that I haven't been able to do that in either innings of this game, particularly in the second innings when we were in some early trouble, fighting our way into a pretty strong position and when I got out we lost a couple of wickets on top of that."

Hussey, who was dropped by Rahul Dravid when on 69, has a great chance to play the hero on day four and drive Australia to a defendable total against India's formidable batting line-up.

The crowds at the Melbourne Cricket Ground have greeted Ponting as if it were his last Test, rising to their feet to applaud him on his walk out to the crease and again when he has raised his bat to salute them after his half-centuries.

Ponting dismissed the idea he would ever willingly leave the game, though. "It's my job to be a consistent run-scorer for Australia and do my best to win games of cricket for Australia," he said.

"If I feel like I've got some support in the dressing room that's all that really matters to me.