Vineet Sharma/Zeenews Sports
Melbourne: It was a perfect start to an Aussie summer at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as India managed to put up a positive show when faced with a formidable Oz outfit at home on Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test.
The scorecard read 277/6 at stumps on a day that saw short patches of rain disrupt play for a stadium full of spectators who were given a feast of the best quality Test cricket in the world.
A handy partnership between Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle averted a complete collapse in the final session of play while the Indian bowlers came back strongly after the top order, led by Ricky Ponting threatened to take the air out of the visitors’ attack.
Ed Cowan (68) made a solid debut before he finally caved-in to the pressure mounted by the Indian bowlers, caught behind by MS Dhoni off Ravichandran Ashwin’s spin.
Before the collapse, Zaheer Khan had finally struck hard as he clean bowled Michael Clarke (31) with an awesome delivery that was dragged back onto the stumps. He followed it up with another beauty and dismissed Michael Hussey for a duck on the very next delivery.
The spectators were treated to Test cricket of the highest quality as the world’s top teams competed with full fervour, not giving the other any room to breathe. However, it was the Australians with the home advantage that held a slightly upper hand.
Umesh Yadav struck gold on being reintroduced into the attack, claiming the all important scalp of Ricky Ponting (62). The third breakthrough from Yadav got the bounce back into the Indian outfit as the scorecard read 170/3 at tea on Day 1.
The second session of play belonged majorly to Australia as Cowan and Ponting kept on piling runs and did not give away their wicket cheaply.
Ponting had looked dangerous as he slammed a solid fifty to steady the innings, his 59th in Test cricket for Australia in the last fifteen years. He was given apt support from opener Ed Cowan who toiled for his runs but kept the wicket intact against a disciplined attack, slamming a fifty of his own.
The post-lunch session had begun a bit late as rain gods kept on bothering the proceedings in a largely filled MCG.
Rain stopped play as an early lunch was taken at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with the Australian scorecard reading 68/2. The game was delicately poised at the break as the Indian bowlers pegged back towards the later part of the session while the home team averted any collapses.
India had got the first breakthrough as Umesh Yadav claimed David Warner (37) right after a short break that could have resulted in a lapse of concentration on the batsman’s part.
Shaun Marsh was the new man on the crease and he was out for a duck, giving Yadav his second scalp of the Australian summers. Warner gloved a short one into the hands of India skipper MS Dhoni while Marsh was caught by Kohli with the scorecard reading 46/2.
Just before that, covers had come on the turf at the MCG because rain stopped play after 13 overs. The break was however short lived as the drizzle stopped within a few minutes and play resumed.
Cowan and Warner had started the proceedings on a positive note as speedsters Ishant and Zaheer looked for an early breakthrough while there was still some movement in the air.
Zaheer was particularly tight in his line and length as he had a couple of loud appeals and close calls.
The second day of the Test would perhaps give a clearer picture of the tilt in the balance of power and both skippers would hope for mercy from the rain gods and nerves from their players on the hard MCG wicket.
India (Playing XI): Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni(w/c), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav
Australia (Playing XI): David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke(c), Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin(w), Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson