Fifteen wickets fell on the third day at the MCG as the Test match game once again showed why it is at the pinnacle of our sport. The advantage went first to Australia as Ben Hilfenhaus cleaned up the rest of the Indian batting line-up to end with five wickets, before Umesh Yadav followed up his impressive first innings showing with another four wickets in the second as the hosts closed on 179 for eight.
India had looked well-poised at the start of the day to take a convincing first innings lead, but that aspiration was soon in tatters when Rahul Dravid was bowled by Hilfenhaus without adding to his overnight score. VVS Laxman (2), Virat Kohli (11) and MS Dhoni (6) all followed soon afterwards as Australia found a full length and the trio edged behind.
On a pitch that was still offering a just enough help to the bowlers, the visitors’ collapse of eight for 68 was complete when Peter Siddle had R Ashwin caught behind for a sparky 31 as he ended with three for 63 and the revitalised Hilfenhaus five for 75.
This gave the home side an important 51-run first innings lead, but they soon squandered any advantage gained as they lost David Warner (5), Ed Cowan (8) and Shaun Marsh (3) to a series of ill-judged strokes. When captain Michael Clarke also fell to a beauty from Ishant Sharma to take the score to 27 for four, there must surely have been echoes of Cape Town in the Australian dressing room.
Fortunately for the hosts, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey – both of whom were facing the chop prior to this match – hit half-centuries during a fifth wicket partnership of 115. Ponting eventually fell in the sixties for the second time in the match but by that time the slide had been arrested and Australia were back on even terms.
The day’s drama was not yet finished, however, as Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon were all dismissed in single figures before stumps. Haddin’s stroke was a particularly poor one – an indiscriminate waft outside off-stump – and the vultures in the shape of Matthew Wade will be looming ahead of the second Test at the SCG.
Nonetheless, Australia still have Hussey there at the crease – thanks to an uncharacteristic dropped catch from Dravid – and much will depend on how well he can marshal the tail as to what total India will be chasing in the fourth innings.
© Cricket World 2011
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