Australia took a firm grip on the first Test against India here in Melbourne after Stuart Clark and Brett Lee produced a sustained period of hostile and controlled pace bowling to dismiss India for 196 late on the second day yesterday.
Clark, who finished with an outstanding 4 for 28 off 15 overs, captured the valuable wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, who top scored with 62, and Rahul Dravid as India struggled against the pace attack. India were dismissed 147 runs behind Australia's first innings of 343.
"If you bowl badly then you will go for plenty of runs [because the wicket] is still low, flat and slow," said Clark. "But I think what helped us was the ball got scuffed up nicely and we were lucky enough to get a bit of reverse swing. I think the credit goes to Brett and Mitch [Johnson] because they did not allow them the chance to score any runs."
Australia's openers Phil Jaques and first innings centurion Matthew Hayden extended the lead to 179 by the close of day two and, short of a dramatic collapse, Australia look strong favourites to extend their successive Test winning streak to 15 later in the week as the pitch seems sure to deteriorate.
The current Australia side are chasing the world record set by Steve Waugh's XI of 16 successive Test victories, which was ended by India in 2001.
Clark, who was the last man dismissed in Australia's first innings early on the second day when he was caught hooking by Harbhajan Singh off Zaheer Khan, struck at crucial times during India's innings. After pinpoint and pacy new-ball bowling by Lee and Johnson had tied India's openers down, Clark came on to trap a pensive looking Dravid in the final over before lunch, then later dismissed Tendulkar just before tea.
Clark also removed Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni either side of the tea break as he took three wickets for just one run within the space of 12 balls.
The consistently lively Lee, whose extreme pace upset Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, hitting both in the ribs, finished with 4 for 46 off 19.5 overs.
Sourav Ganguly, who combined with Tendulkar in a 65-run partnership as they attempted to rebuild India's innings from 55 for 3, scored 43 before he was bowled by Brad Hogg, who finished with 2 for 82 off 21 overs.
India's captain Anil Kumble, who took 5 for 84 in the first innings, also scored 27 valuable runs before he became Lee's 250th Test wicket. "Yesterday we were in a good position but today we are not," said Tendulkar. "We should have played better but that is all part and parcel of Test cricket. We will have to get 10 wickets quickly. That is the first target, then we will break the rest of the Test match down session by session."