| Ricky Ponting en route to his 54 at the SCG on Sunday
Sydney: It’s a measure of Australia’s confidence that spearhead Glenn McGrath responded with a quick “three sessions” when asked just how much time is required to knock over the World XI and finish the Super Test.
Needing 355 to script an upset, the World XI was tottering at 25 for two when insufficient light ended Day III very prematurely. In fact, despite floodlights at the SCG, only 244 minutes of cricket was possible. That was time enough for 53.3 overs.
Had Rudi Koertzen and Simon Taufel not ruled that the batsmen were at risk, it’s possible the World XI would have plunged deeper into misery. At the wicket are two out of form, but top quality, batsmen ' Rahul Dravid and Brian Lara.
“There’s pride at stake, but a special effort will be required for us to beat Australia,” acknowledged Andrew Flintoff. It can’t be anything less as the highest successful chase here stands at a mere 276 for four, by the hosts against England, way back in 1898!
Flintoff added that the team spirit was “fine,” yet remarked: “We’re still finding out the best way of getting everybody to perform...” It has already taken too much time.
Three days remain, but as McGrath pointed out, the Test should end on Monday itself ' assuming there’s no interruption because of rain or poor light.
Actually, after two miserable days, the World XI bowlers fought back on Sunday to briefly end the lopsidedness of the face-off. So much so that the Australian second innings stopped at 199.
Steve Harmison, Flintoff and the mesmerising Muttiah Muralidharan each took three wickets in conditions where the ball swung ' conventional and reverse ' besides turning and jumping. Some of the Australians, of course, made the task easier.
Murali, by the way, must have said a prayer or two once the innings ended as gloveman Mark Boucher hadn’t been able to ‘read’ him at all. Perhaps, even Boucher would have prayed for a reasonably quick finish to his misery behind the stumps.
Setting out to salvage pride, the World XI lost captain Graeme Smith and Virender Sehwag pretty early. Smith fell to McGrath, before Test cricket’s most successful quick was taken off by Ricky Ponting for tactical reasons, and Sehwag became a Stuart MacGill victim.
Meanwhile, McGrath is looking at reaching 1,000 wickets at the international level. “Six hundred in Tests and 400 in ODIs... Not that I’m going to quit the day I get there,” he quipped, a day after overtaking Courtney Walsh’s 519.
He’s 79 short of his Test target; 73 away from what he hopes to achieve in ODIs.
Asked by The Telegraph whether he’d dedicated his 520th wicket (Lara’s) to anybody, McGrath smiled: “I haven’t thought about it... Perhaps, my wife.”