Test evenly poised after controversial first day

Australia 277-6 v India

Australia finished on 277 for six at the end of a controversial first
day of the Boxing Day Test against India at the Melbourne Cricket
Ground.

India had refused to condone the use of the decision review system (DRS) in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy Series and that appeared to have implications today with the dismissals of Michael Hussey (nought) and debutant Ed Cowan (68) both questionable.

The visitors' refusal could also have repercussions for Hussey who is battling to save his Test career and must now try to ease the pressure with an impressive second innings.

The two dismissals took place in a devastating 19-ball period which saw the hosts lose three wickets for nine runs after they were cruising at 205 for three.

Veteran paceman Zaheer Khan (two for 49) found himself on a hat-trick when he first bowled Michael Clarke for 31 and, with the next ball, umpire Marais Erasmus adjudged Hussey to have been caught behind by MS Dhoni for a golden duck.

But TV replays suggested the ball missed the bat and glove by some distance.

And 16 balls later, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (one for 71) took the crucial wicket of Cowan when he was also caught behind by Dhoni although the DRS most likely would have given Cowan a reprieve with 'Hot Spot' appearing to show there was no nick.

It was an unfortunate end for the rock-solid Cowan who hit the best score by an Australian opener on his debut since Wayne Phillips (159) in 1983-84 against Pakistan.

However, Brad Haddin (21 not out) and Peter Siddle (34 not out) steadied things again for Australia with a very handy unbeaten 63-run seventh-wicket union.

Australia had found themselves in a strong position thanks to a superb 113-run third-wicket partnership between Cowan and the under-fire Ricky Ponting (62).

Ponting recovered well from a jittery start and became more comfortable as his innings wore on.

This was highlighted by three trademark pull shots for four off Khan and Umesh Yadav (three for 96) who unsuccessfully attempted to test out Ponting with some poor short deliveries.

Ponting, who ended up with six boundaries, joined Cowan in the middle with the score on 46 for two and the pair ramped things up after lunch as they smacked 48 from 49 balls, with Yadav copping the full brunt of the punishment.

After starring in the morning by claiming the scalps of David Warner (37) and Shaun Marsh (zero) in the space of seven balls, 24-year-old Yadav was brought back into the attack and quickly turned from hero to villain.

Yadav conceded 34 runs from just four overs after lunch, including five boundaries, and the scoring spree was what Australia needed after they could only manage to reach 68 for two at lunch.

But just as Ponting looked like he was possibly building towards his 40th Test ton, Yadav made up for his poor economy rate by having the former Australian skipper caught by VVS Laxman at second slip.

Cowan was a picture of caution in the first session of his Test career, moving along to just 14 off 61 balls at lunch.

But when he went on the attack, he did so with authority.

The Tasmanian opener began to take care of the bad ball, of which there were plenty at that stage of the match, and doubled his score from 14 to 28 within 10 deliveries after lunch ending up with seven fours.

Although Yadav was India's leading wicket-taker he was also by far their most expensive bowler, pitching it too short on too many occasions with the end result often being a trip to the boundary rope.

PA

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