Australia 337-9 v India: Kumble's high five helps India find punch in Boxing Day duel

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The Independent Online

The Australian opener Matthew Hayden scored his 28th Test century, while India's captain Anil Kumble took five wickets to leave the first Test evenly poised after the first day's play here in Melbourne yesterday.

Hayden, who shared a 135-run opening partnership with Phil Jaques, was dismissed for 124 as the home side reached stumps on 337 for 9 with Mitchell Johnson on 10 and Stuart Clark on 21.

Kumble finished with 5 for 84, while left-arm pace bowler Zaheer Khan grabbed three wickets including captain Ricky Ponting and Hayden.

Kumble would be pleased with his side's efforts of refusing to succumb to Australian pressure by capturing wickets at crucial times after breaking the opening stand.

Australia made a tentative start after winning the toss and choosing to bat on a pitch that had signs of grass and moisture in the outfield, before Hayden and Jaques guided them through to lunch at 111 for no wicket.

However, after Kumble managed to draw Jaques down the wicket by a topspinner that was neatly taken by wicketkeeper Mahendra Dhoni, who whipped the bails off to dismiss him for 66, the home side's momentum stalled.

Ponting was bowled by Zaheer for four with a delivery that seamed away to knock over off stump before Mike Hussey was trapped in front by Kumble off another delivery that failed to spin, for two, leaving the home side at 165 for 3. Hayden, who reached his century with a cover drive off RP Singh for his eighth boundary, consolidated the innings with Michael Clarke before they both fell in quick succession.

Clarke was caught by VVS Laxman at second slip for 20 chasing a full, wide delivery from Singh, before Hayden spooned a catch to Sourav Ganguly at mid-on shortly after. Andrew Symonds, who had ominously moved to 35 off 42 balls, was then caught by the substitute fielder Dinesh Karthik to give Kumble his third wicket.

The Indian captain then had Adam Gilchrist mistiming a sweep to be caught by Sachin Tendulkar for 23, then trapped Brett Lee in front for a duck to give him his 35th five-wicket Test haul.

Khan then had Brad Hogg caught in the slips for 17 with the first delivery with the new ball before Clark, who produced two classy cover drives for boundaries in the final over, and Johnson saw the home side through to stumps.

Kumble ranked his performance as superior to his 10 for 74 against Pakistan on a wearing wicket in Delhi in 1999.

"To be honest, it's probably the top of everything," said the 37-year-old. "To get it on the first day of the Boxing Day Test, the first Test of the series, against Australia, it is a very special one."

The captain, however, said praise must go to all of his bowlers, particularly off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who conceded just 61 runs off his 20 overs. "He bowled well, we bowled well together," Kumble added. "He kept it tight at one end and I picked up the wickets at the other and I'm sure in the second innings he will be very effective. I am very happy with what happened today, and the way we performed after being on the back foot at lunch."

Hayden, meanwhile, predicted a steady deterioration in the wicket. "I think it's definitely going to be a wicket that will be very hard to score on over the next few days," he said. "There will be slow conditions and it will be challenging to score runs.

"You will see us really putting the pressure on in the field and really trying to restrict India, that's the way I see it going.

"I also think the match will go into the fifth day and the wicket will deteriorate and it will be very difficult to bat on during that last day."