Australia’s hopes rested on skipper Ricky Ponting to produce one of his great fighting innings and avoid an Ashes series defeat to England in the fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday.
Australia faced a massive 415-run deficit after dismissing the tourists for 513 at lunch on the third day and needing to bat out eight sessions to prevent an England win to retain the urn.
Ponting, under pressure after scoring just 93 runs at 15.5 in the series and batting with a fractured left little finger, grimly sought to regain batting confidence and lead the Australian fightback after a poor first
innings total of 98 on the first day.
At tea, Australia were 95 for one with Ponting on 19 and Shane Watson not out 50 to trail by 320 runs.
It has been a gruelling Test match for the 152-Test veteran, who incurred a fine and a censure from the match referee for his prolonged argument with the umpires over a disputed referral decision on Monday.
Ponting is considered integral for Australia to salvage the Test with his ability to score big hundreds.
Australia lost the wicket of opener Phillip Hughes in a controversial run out.
Hughes, fighting for his Test career, was the victim of a poorly-judged run by batting partner Watson.
The openers had comfortably taken the score to 53 but inexplicably Watson scurried off for an unnecessary single to cover only for Jonathan Trott to swoop in and whip the ball to wicketkeeper Matt Prior to effect the run out.
Hughes looked a disconsolate figure as he trudged from the ground scoring 23 off 30 balls and wondering if it would be enough to keep his place for next week’s final Sydney Test.
Watson has been involved in six run outs in 26 Test innings and has been run out just once.
England were dismissed for 513 at lunch with Jonathan Trott remaining unbeaten on 168 as England’s marathon innings stretching over 700 minutes and 159.1 overs came to an end.
Trott batted for 468 minutes, faced 345 balls and hit 14 balls in an innings that fortified England’s impregnable position.
Peter Siddle finished with 6-75 off 33.1 overs and Australia lost paceman Ryan Harris with an ankle stress fracture while bowling in the morning session.
“Ryan is likely to require surgery and will consult a specialist in the next 24 hours,” team doctor Trefor James said in a statement.
Australia will now need to find a bowling replacement for Harris for the Sydney Test.