Watson laments sinking feeling
Shane Watson revealed his “horrendous” feeling at being part of an Australia team on the brink of losing the Ashes at home for the first time in 24 years.
England require a maximum of four wickets, and with the injured Ryan Harris unlikely to bat more likely three, to retain the urn they won last year.
Ricky Ponting’s side need another 247 runs to make the tourists bat again and, with the weather set fair for the next two days, a miracle to avoid defeat at the MCG.
Watson, who has so far top-scored with 54 in Australia’s second-innings 169 for six, was realistic about his side’s chances of saving the game.
Asked if the Ashes have gone again, he replied: "Just about."
“It’s horrendous to be totally honest,” Watson added. “Going into this Ashes series we knew how important it would be to win because Australia hasn’t lost the Ashes in Australia for 24 years.”
"It’s very shattering to be in the position we are now,” Watson lamented. “After playing so well in Perth and feeling like we have a big chance of really being in the series and winning the Ashes, now to be in the position that we are after our poor performance throughout this whole game.”
That started with being dismissed for 98 by tea on day one and continued as England amassed a 415-run lead.
"We didn't bat that well in the first innings, even in quite sporting conditions, and there's no doubt we've not batted that well at all throughout this game and we're now in a position where we're a long way from even salvaging a draw," Watson observed.
Facing a mammoth task in their second innings, Australia began impressively with Watson and Hughes putting on 53 for the first wicket.
However, Watson was responsible for his opening partner’s downfall. He called for a risky single into the covers off Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott swooped before relaying to Matt Prior with Hughes just short of his ground.
"You'd actually prefer to run yourself out, it's a horrible feeling to be involved in a run-out when it's your mate and it's not ideal when you're trying to build an opening partnership," he said.
Despite that setback, Watson and Ponting survived the remainder of Chris Tremlett’s hostile burst to reach tea at 95 for one.
"Me and Ricky being in a good place going into tea, getting through Tremlett's spell was a big plus,” Watson recalled.
“He bowled very well throughout the whole game but especially in that spell when the ball was going reverse.
"We felt we were in a great place, and then unfortunately it all went pear-shaped from there - me getting out lbw and then losing the wickets that we have.”
Watson, Ponting and Mike Hussey fell to Tim Bresnan after tea in the space of 18 balls, which cost just two runs.
“His first spell was very good and the ball was starting to go a little bit reverse and his spell this afternoon as well was very highly skilled so it made it a lot of hard work out there,” Watson added.
The 29-year-old’s half-century was his fourth of a series in which he has continued a habit of failing to turn fifties into hundreds.
"For me personally, it's disappointing to get another fifty and not be able to go on and make the most of the way I feel I'm hitting the ball and get a big score,” he admitted.
With Ponting registering another batting failure today, the pressure is mounting on Australia’s captain following his fine yesterday for a confrontation with the umpires. But Watson stood by his skipper.
"He's coping as well as he possibly can given the position he's in at the moment," he revealed.
"He's a very, very tough man mentally - as he has shown throughout his whole career.
"Everyone will always be right behind Ricky. He has been a brilliant leader for us. He's such an amazing player.
"With a few things going his way, he'll be able to turn things around.
"There's no doubt no one will ever question his ability to be able to lead the group."
If England, as expected, complete victory tomorrow, Australia can still square the series in the Sydney finale. Watson made clear that would be their objective.
"We have to try and restore some pride,” he concluded.
"The Australian fans have come out and supported us - and we haven't really given them anything to support.
"We really do have to go out there in Sydney and try to keep some of supporters and fans on side - because unfortunately, the way we played, we might have turned a few people off."