Vineet Sharma/Zeenews Sports
Melbourne: Speedsters ruled the proceedings at the MCG on the third day of the Boxing Day Test, taking wickets by the dozen. Hosts Australia were 179/8 at stumps after Umesh Yadav and Zaheer Khan helped India become even.
The Australian lead over India is 230 runs and the visitors would like to end the run-scoring early on the penultimate day. Michael Hussey was the man who remained unbeaten at 79, and he along with Ricky Ponting (60), provided the anchor for the Oz outfit.
Umesh Yadav was the wrecker-in-charge for India, claiming four wickets with an impressive run with the cherry. His last victim was Peter Siddle (4) who was done-in with a swinging delivery that was collected brilliantly by MS Dhoni behind the stumps. Hussey however, kept his side of the turf intact after being dropped in the slips at 69 by Rahul Dravid.
Zaheer Khan had finally made his presence felt at the MCG with the prized wicket of Ricky Ponting. It was quickly followed with the scalping of Brad Haddin as India made a comeback just when it was needed the most.
The pair of Ponting and Michael Hussey had slammed quick fifties to get Australia back into the game after the initial hiccups.
India came back strongly in the post lunch session, restricting Australia to 81/4 at tea time on Day 3 with the help of fiery pacers.
The day turned out to be a pacer special with speed calling the roost. Umesh Yadav was the man who triggered the top order landslide.
Ishant Sharma bowled a perfect line and length delivery that clean bowled skipper Michael Clarke, opening up the game once again for India.
Yadav had rattled the Australian top order with a double strike early-on, claiming openers David Warner and Ed Cowan. He soon followed it up with the wicket of Shaun Marsh.
Warner had dragged the ball back onto his stumps while Cowan was found plumb in front of the wicket to a fuller delivery as he offered no shot to the bowler.
The Australian bowlers, led by Hilfenhaus, made an emphatic comeback on Day 3, wrapping-up the Indian resistance with clinical precision at a score of 282 runs. The Oz dominance can be judged from the fact that they took seven wickets and gave just 68 runs in the morning session.
The visitors were clueless as the morning session started and the Australians supplemented it with some tearaway bowling. For India, it was a classic case of a collapse with the batsmen looking totally hapless in front of a disciplined Oz attack, a stark contrast from yesterday. In the end, the effort fell short of the Australian first innings total by 51 runs.
Ben Hilfenhaus raked up a five wicket haul to put Australia in the driver’s seat, his fifth victim being Ishant Sharma (11). The next man to go was Zaheer Khan (4) as he was clean bowled by James Pattinson.
Skipper Dhoni (6) could not offer resistance to the onslaught and Hilfenhaus got his fourth scalp of the match with Hussey completing a regulation catch. The sixth Indian wicket to fall was that of Virat Kohli (11). The batsman was particularly bad in his shot selection and was caught behind off Hilfenhaus’ delivery.
Prior to this, Peter Siddle gave the Aussies the big breakthrough, claiming VVS Laxman (2) cheaply. The batsman was one of the most dangerous in the line-up for the Oz squad and his wicket saw them celebrating.
India had started the morning of the third day’s play of the first Test on a sombre note as stalwart Rahul Dravid lost his wicket quickly. Dravid's footwork was a bit slow and he played inside the line. The ball seamed in and then straightened past the edge to knock back off stump to make him walk back after scoring 68 runs.
With speed being the keyword on the third day of the first Test between India and Australia, the game is all set to come up with a result and both sides would like to capitalise on the penultimate day.
Indians would like to wrap-up Australia within a lead of around 250 runs and would hope for a Sachin special when they are out to bat in the fourth innings.