India And Australia Evenly Matched After Opening Day
Australia 277-6 (Cowan 68) v India
First Test, Melbourne, day one
The first day of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG between Australia and India finished with honours more or less even thanks to half-centuries from Ricky Ponting and debutant Ed Cowan, and three wickets for Umesh Yadav (three for 96).
Australia began the day by winning an unimportant toss, with Australian captain Michael Clarke eventually opting to bat first after much deliberation. There was always likely to be some help for the bowlers and so it proved, with Ed Cowan playing out a maiden from Zaheer Khan in the first over, and David Warner inside edging a boundary a little later on.
However, through a mixture of defence from Cowan and typical bombastic aggression from Warner, Australia were able to survive unscathed through to the first rain break on 46 without loss. Unfortunately for the hosts, they then lost two quick wickets immediately after the resumption, as Warner was caught behind for 37, and the returning Shaun Marsh lobbed a catch to Virat Kohli in the gully to fall for a duck.
It was then the turn of the under-pressure Ricky Ponting – who received a standing ovation from the 70,000-strong crowd –before Umesh Yadav silenced them almost straightaway with a well directed bouncer that struck the 37 year-old on the jaw. However, Ponting and Cowan survived without further alarm until another rain shower bought an early lunch and they walked off with the score on 68 for two.
After the break, Ponting began to find his range and played a couple glorious strokes that reminded those of the class that has seen the Australian selectors persevere with a man that many would have dropped. He reached his fifty from 67 balls before Yadav claimed him as his third scalp by way of an awkwardly bouncing ball that took the shoulder of Ponting’s bat on its way to VVS Laxman in the gully. Throughout all of this, Cowan had held firm and played the role of counter-foil perfectly as the home side went in at tea on 170 for three.
He continued to display his adhesive qualities after the resumption, and saw captain Michael Clarke’s (31) timbers rearranged by Zaheer Khan, and Mike Hussey fall first ball to the same bowler, before he eventually succumbed to the impressive R Ashwin for 68 from 177 balls. Both Cowan and Hussey can count themselves a little unlucky as Hot Spot cast doubt on whether either of them did actually edge the ball through to MS Dhoni. Indeed, it appears that the BCCI’s stance on UDRS has claimed its latest two victims; something that led Cowan to call for the ICC to step in and make the system mandatory in all Test cricket when he was asked about his dismissal after the close of play.
However, Australia didn’t let the controversy affect them and finally ended on 277 for six, with Brad Haddin unbeaten on 21 and Peter Siddle not out on 34, displaying staunch defence for the last 22 overs of day one.
The two of them will go to bed tonight knowing that much will depend on the two of them tomorrow morning if Australia are going to get up to the score of 350 that they desperately need.
© Cricket World 2011