Usman Khawaja struck a fine unbeaten half-century    Getty Images
Usman Khawaja struck a fine unbeaten half-century Getty Images

Not long ago, just four Tests to be precise, Australia were the world No. 1 in Test cricket. But an embarrassing historic whitewash in Sri Lanka and a terrible defeat in the first Test at WACA, Perth, have landed this Australian cricket team in a minefield. Of late, wherever they have taken field, Australians have not only lost; they have been massacred and their pride has been ripped to shreds. Having undergone such trauma, with everything at stake including their positions on the side and future after another mortifying show in the first innings at Hobart, the Australians will take field on the fourth day with a lot at stake. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD AND LIVE COMMENTARY: Australia vs South Africa, 2nd Test at Hobart

If there is an iota of what we know as Australianism in Steven Smith s side, they should be able to restore some pride which has been severely dented in the past few weeks. Having landed themselves in a desperate position wherein the position of the head of Cricket Australia (CA) to the two debutants in this Test are in danger, Australian cricket team faces one of the toughest challenges to save this Test. And if that is not possible, at least go down fighting.

Going into the fourth day of the rain-affected ongoing Test at Hobart, Australia are still behind by 120 runs in their second innings, having reached 121 for 2 at stumps. Bad light stopped play at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart and Smith was dashing towards the dressing room as quickly as he could after the umpire offered the batsmen the choice to walk off. But Australia will have to show tremendous discipline and gumption to make sure that South Africa remain at bay, which happened in the second innings for the hosts.

Despite losing Joe Burns on the fourth ball of their innings, Australia were able to reply back strongly with a 79-run stand for the second wicket between David Warner and Usman Khawaja. Warner was unlucky as he had an awkward dismissal, as the ball hit his waist, then hit the elbow, and crashed into his wickets. Warner scored 45 off 78 balls, studded with 4 boundaries.

Warner and Khawaja did well to add 79 runs for the second wicket. They negated the seam and swing well from Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander early on to deny South Africa the advantage of making early breakthroughs. Warner s unfortunate dismissal in the 23rd over of the day brought Smith at the crease and luckily, Australia did not have to face any more fall of the wicket.

Smith and Khawaja took Australia safely until the end of the day s play, adding as many as 42 runs for the third wicket in about 13 overs or so. Smith, who scored a fantastic 48 not out in the first innings of Australia, resumed in the same passion and hit a few good-looking boundaries. But the star of the Australian innings so far has been the left-handed Khawaja, who reached 56 not out off 108 balls. This was the fifth fifty in Test cricket for the batsman who has been facing a lot of flak of late, but Khawaja responded in style, hitting 8 boundaries to make a strong statement.

Australia might have looked like getting back on track with their batsmen standing up to the occasion and Josh Hazlewood bagging six wickets early on, but it does not mean that they are back in the contest. Australia are still behind by as many as 120 runs, and looking at their recent batting collapses, an innings defeat cannot be ruled out of the equation if South African bowlers are able to find some movement off the wicket and swing the ball around.

Australia are still in a lot of trouble, and unless they are not able to reach at least 400 or more runs in their second innings having made a strong start in the second essay, the game will remain out of their reach. On the other hand, South Africa will feel they have the game in complete grasp. They are ahead by 120 runs, and there should not be much difficulty for them to roll over the struggling Australian batsmen for cheap once again. South Africa have the perfect motivation of taking the remaining 8 Australian wickets and sealing their third straight victory in Test series Down Under. South Africa are getting closer to making hat-trick of wins in Australia and they have a very strong chance of achieving it on Day Four.

For South Africa, the desired result may not be far off as it is for Australia. The hosts have been poor so far, but if they are able to make a game out of it by batting responsibly, Australia may be able to take it into the final day. But a batting collapse will not be surprising, and if that happens, Australia will find themselves hitting lowest of lows.

(Devarchit Varma is a senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)