Vodafone Test Series v India
Ponting backs Australia to at last end Indian resistance
Test great believes 'something has to give' as gripping Test series arrives at its denouement at the Gabba
18 January 2021, 07:14 PM AEST
Ricky Ponting has backed Australia to win the fourth Vodafone Test at the Gabba but says a drawn result would be a worse outcome for the hosts than the historic defeat to India on home soil two summers ago.
Australia require 10 wickets on day five in Brisbane after setting India 328 to win, with Ajinkya Rahane's charges knocking off four runs before rain brought an early end to the penultimate day.
No team has chased down a target of more than 250 at the Gabba, a record that will be even harder to break on a pitch that is starting to play tricks as the cracks widen.
But Ponting says Australia will have to overcome the guts and defiance the Indians have shown all summer in the face of life in a touring bubble, injuries to their frontline bowling attack and specialist batters, the absence of their captain and best batter Virat Kohli, and no shortage of issues with Australian crowds.
And if the tourists hold on for a drawn series or manage to re-write history and actually win the deciding Test, the 168-Test legend insists the result would be harder to swallow than the 2-1 series defeat against the Kohli-led India side from 2018-19, which won a Test series on Australian soil for the first time, albeit against a side without batting guns Steve Smith and David Warner.
"India's resilience has got to give up at some stage," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"They can't keep doing what they've been doing, being so resilient, and tomorrow it might be that day.
"The last day of the series, potentially playing for another draw, I've just got a feeling that something's got to give.
"And Australia on the other hand, they know they have to go flat out and give everything to win the series.
"I think a drawn series will be worse than the loss a couple of years ago.
"That's the way I look at it, considering how hard India have found it going through 20 players in a series, (Australia) having Warner back for the last couple of games, Smith back for all them that they didn't have last time around.
"A draw would not only feel like a loss to them but be a worse result than last series."
Ponting expects Tim Paine's men to learn from the third Test at the SCG, where India batted 131 overs to secure a draw and keep the series deadlocked at 1-1 heading to the Gabba.
The Tasmanian predicted the fast bowlers to be used in shorter spells to keep them fresh, and encouraged the brains trust to think outside the box and, should a partnership start to form, identify it quickly and implement a new tactic with the appropriate bowlers.
While master off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who is just three wickets away from 400 in Tests, has bowled Australia to victory on day five pitches in the past, Ponting says it will be the fast bowlers who will be most effective on Tuesday.
"I think it will be (Josh) Hazlewood and (Pat) Cummins," Ponting said when asked who will take the majority of the wickets on day five.
"I think the up-and-down bounce will suit them.
"(Express paceman Mitch) Starc, I think probably won't get much of an opportunity with the newer ball.
"I think they'll use him in short, sharp spells to run and bowl fast and unsettle like he did yesterday afternoon.
"The majority of the wickets will go to the two big, tall right-armers."
While Ponting is backing a victory to the home side, the way this series has unfolded it would not be surprising to see India attack the target.
When chasing 407 to win in Sydney, the tourists at one point looked on track with Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease.
When Pant fell for 97 and Pujara was bowled with the second new ball, India shut up shop and held on for the stalemate.
While a draw would see them retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, India have the firepower in their line-up to go after the runs, with openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, as well as Pant, all capable of scoring quickly.
Ponting says the narrative of India's run chase will be known inside the first session on day five.
"The first hour of play will be the most important for them," he said.
"Not if they don't lose wickets, they have to actually get away and start scoring reasonably quickly.
"Ninety-eight overs tomorrow, 324 still to get so they're going to have to score at a rate that they haven't scored in the series so far.
"Rohit and Gill are every chance to get them off to a good start. If they do do that I think they might use Rishabh Pant up the order again, like they did in Sydney, because if it does get down to a run chase and (India are) behind the (required) run rate early on I can't see how Pujara is going to be the guy to drag them back into the chase.
"It's going to be intriguing to me to see if they come out with the thought of trying to win the game or if they're happy to try and defend and sit on it and block the day out and not even entertain going for the runs.
"That story will be told pretty early on in the day tomorrow."
Vodafone Test Series v India 2020-21
Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Sean Abbott, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner
India Test squad: Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan
First Test: Australia won by eight wickets
Second Test: India won by eight wickets
Third Test: Match drawn
Fourth Test: January 15-19, Gabba, 11am AEDT