First Test evenly poised as 15 wickets fall on third day (Roundup)

December 28th, 2011 - 3:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Virender Sehwag Melbourne, Dec 28 (IANS) On a day when 15 wickets fell, the first cricket Test between India and Australia was tantalisingly poised after the third day’s play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here Wednesday.

Australia were 179 for eight in their second innings at stumps with Mike Hussey unbeaten on a fighting 79 with James Pattinson on three and the hosts had stretched their lead to 230 runs. Former captain Ricky Ponting (60), his second half-century in the game, was the only other Australian batsman to get to double figures.

India’s bowlers fought back well in the last two sessions after the batting collapsed in the morning session, losing seven wickets for 68 runs to be all out for 282 runs in the first innings in reply to Australia’s first innings score of 333. Australian fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus (5/75) bagged his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests.

Wickets continued to crash as Australia lost the first four wickets for 27 runs before old warhorses Ponting and Hussey retrieved the innings with their 115-run stand for the fifth wicket before the Indian bowlers came back strongly to claim four more wickets in the last hour.

Indian fast bowlers atoned for the disastrous performance of the batsmen in the first innings. Umesh Yadav (4/49), Zaheer Khan (2/32) and Ishant Sharma (1/41) put on an impressive display of fast bowling as Australia lost the top four quick wickets - including both openers in one over - all gone in half an hour leaving the side tottering at 27/4. Three of the Australian batsmen were played down.

David Warner (5) was the first to fall, edging a delivery from Yadav onto the stumps while Ed Cowan (8) was out three balls later as he let a ball go and was struck on the pads to be out LBW.

Shortly afterwards, Shaun Marsh (3), in his attempt to drive lustily a ball outside off, sliced it back onto his stumps with a thin edge.

Ishant then produced a great delivery to get rid of Australian captain Michael Clarke (1). Ishant angled it on a good length that drew Clarke forward to defend, but the ball moved in, enough to take the inside edge and rattled the stumps.

Ponting and Hussey then came up with career-saving half-centuries that assured them a ticket for the next Test in Sydney. The day arguably belonged to Ponting, who took his tally of runs at the MCG to 1338, second only to Don Bradman’s 1671 at the same ground.

Zaheer struck to break the partnership inducing Ponting to go for a drive — Virender Sehwag snapped up the thick edge at gully.

Hussey, who was controversially out first ball in the first innings, has also silenced his detractors with the unbeaten 79, sprinkled with seven boundaries, that kept alive Australia’s hope.

Earlier in the day, Hilfenhaus wrecked India’s middle-order with his maiden five-wicket haul (5/75) to give Australia a vital 51-run first innings lead. Peter Siddle bagged three for 63 while James Pattinson got two for 55.

Resuming at an overnight 214 for three, Indian batsmen struggled against the pace and swing generated by the Australian fast bowlers during the morning session. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin offered some resistance with his quick-fire 31 off 35 balls.

Hilfenhaus dismissed Rahul Dravid, who failed to add to his overnight score of 68, with the second ball of the day and then removed Virat Kohli (11) with the second ball of his second spell.

Hilfenhaus found some good movement with the old ball, something that had been a problem for him before he was dropped after the disastrous Ashes series. He was effective with the new ball as well as he drew India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (6) into a tentative prod and edging a ball to Mike Hussey in the gully.

V.V.S. Laxman (2), a thorn for Australia in the past, edged Siddle to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin to give the hosts much needed relief.

Hilfenhaus achieved his first ever five-wicket haul as he claimed his fourth wicket of the morning removing stubborn nightwatchman Ishant Sharma (11).

Pattinson castled Zaheer Khan leaving India struggling at 9/259, still 74 runs behind Australia’s first innings score. But a heroic 23-run stand for the last wicket between Ashwin and Umesh Yadav (2 not out) trimmed Australia’s lead. Siddle finally removed Ashwin, caught behind just before lunch.

Ashwin was lucky to survive a leg-before appeal, while on seven, off Pattinson. Video replays suggested the ball would have likely struck middle and leg stumps but the batsman survived since the Decision Review System (DRS) is not being used in the series.

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