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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Honours even as Australia end Day 1 on 277-6

Honours even as Australia end Day 1 on 277-6

Last updated on: December 26, 2011 15:35 IST

Australia's lower-order batsmen put up stubborn resistance, after Indian pace spearhead Zaheer Khan's incisive blows in the final session, to enable the hosts share honours with India on a fluctuating opening day in the first Test, it Melbourne, on Monday.

Australia captain Michael Clarke must have been left with mixed feelings on his decision to bat first after his side finished the first day on 277 for 6 at the MCG.

- Scorecard | Images

While the Indian seamers bowled well in patches, it was a 113-run third-wicket partnership between under-fire former skipper Ricky Ponting (62) and debutant opener Ed Cowan (68), and an unbroken 63-run seventh-wicket stand between Brad Haddin (batting 21) and Peter Siddle (batting 34) that helped the home team put up a respectable total by the end of the day.

Umesh Yadav (3 for 96) bowled fast, touching 150.1 kmph on the speedometer, as he snared the wickets of David Warner (37), Shaun Marsh (0) and Ponting, but was also guilty of sending down too many boundary balls.

Zaheer Khan (2 for 49 in 23 overs) also bowled well within himself, dismissing Clarke (31) and Michael Hussey (0) off successive deliveries.

Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin deserves a lot of credit for ejecting the stodgy Cowan, who played 177 balls, hitting seven fours in the process.

The absence of the Decision Review System has hurt both the teams. Australia were at the receiving end of two dubious decisions, as both Michael Hussey (0) and Cowan did not seem to have got any edge, but were adjudged caught behind.

Umesh YadavIndia too must have felt a twinge of regret when Brad Haddin, on 19, wasn't given out leg before off a Zaheer delivery even though he looked absolutely plumb in front at the fag end of the day's play.

India got crucial breakthroughs against the run of play after Australia had raced to 46 for no loss in the morning session, and later, in the final session, were cruising along at 205 for 3.

After opener Warner (37) provided a blazing start, Yadav dismissed both Warner and No 3 batsman Shaun Marsh (0) in the space of seven deliveries to reduce Australia to 47 for 2.

Later, in the final session, Australia slumped from 205-3 to 205-5 after Zaheer saw the back of Clarke (31) and Hussey (0) off successive deliveries.

Yadav struck the first blow when his well-directed bouncer saw the stockily built Aussie opener go for a mistimed hook shot. The resultant catch was easily taken by Dhoni.

He then angled a fullish delivery to Marsh, who went for a drive only to be caught by Virat Kohli, stationed at gully.

In between these two strikes, and the mini collapse suffered in the final session, Australia's batting prospered and India had begun to look ragged in the field.

Cowan and Ponting added 113 runs, batting in contrasting, yet effective styles.

Cowan scored only 14 in nearly two hours in the morning session, when Ponting had already raced to 15 by lunch, even though he had a narrow escape when a Yadav bouncer hit him on the helmet and nearly rolled on to his stumps.

Resuming at the lunch-time score of 68 for 2, Ponting went into overdrive on resumption and reeled off a series of boundaries to trigger a similar response from Cowan.

He hit off-spinner Ashwin towards leg side in the first over to set the tone of the session and then twice picked Yadav for a pulled and flicked boundary to move into the 30s.

Cowan was a changed batsman as he took a great helping off the bowling of Yadav. The young bowler was first driven through the covers, then pulled to the fence before twice being cut over and between the slip cordon for fours.

Both batsmen were now in their 40s, but Ponting was the first one to reach his half century when he went down on his knees to lift Ashwin into the midwicket region.

A little later, it was Cowan's turn to raise his bat in celebration when he pushed Ishant on to the off-side for a single. The century-stand between the two for the third wicket came off 123 balls in 162 minutes.

India fought back through steady spells, full of intent, from Ashwin and Ishant Sharma and the reward of this pressure was reaped by Yadav.

Brought on to bowl just before the tea break, Yadav bowled an outswinger to Ponting, which he could only edge to third slip, VVS Laxman. The former Australia captain was in imperious form but for a few moments of uncertainty. He scored 62 runs from 94 balls in 148 minutes, inclusive of seven fours.

There was no hint of disaster as Australia serenely progressed to 170 for 3 by tea, with Cowan still strong on 62 and Clarke looking to take roots on 7.

Clarke pressed on for a while in the final session and had reached 31 from 68 balls when he went to play Zaheer Khan on the backfoot and dragged the ball on to his stumps.

The left-arm pacer made it a twin strike in two balls when Hussey (0) leapt off the ground in trying to evade a bouncer and a vociferous appeal led to umpire Marais Erasmus raising his finger in affirmation.

Television replays showed the umpire was wrong, as the ball did not brush any part of the bat on the way to the wicketkeeper. A stunned Hussey, fighting for his career survival, was distraught on being given the marching orders. He cut a forlorn figure as he dragged himself out of the ground.

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