Steven Smith once again proved the difference for Australia as the new captain scored an assured half century to steer his team through a mixed day with the bat on the opening day of the third test against India.
Australia overcame the early loss of opener David Warner and the premature end of a promising second-wicket partnership from Chris Rogers and Shane Watson to go to stumps at 259-5 on Friday.
Coming to the crease after the loss of opener Rogers, Smith made a cautious start before upping the tempo after tea to quickly bring up his fourth 50 of the series en route to an unbeaten 72 and over 1,000 test runs for the year.
"He's definitely one of an echelon of batsmen at the moment who go above and beyond," Rogers said of Smith. "He's just getting better day by day and it's scary to think how good he can be."
Smith offered both calm and confidence to the Australia innings as he produced another captain's knock punctuated by some classy strokes.
"He looks as if he knows he belongs and he knows he's one of the better players in the world at the moment," Rogers said.
Brad Haddin will resume the second day on 23 not out after an up and down day for the Australian batsmen.
Rogers and Watson brought up their half centuries in a 115-run partnership before being dismissed in the space of six balls after lunch.
Rogers reached 57 before he was caught behind while playing at a fullish delivery off Mohammed Shami (2-55) and Watson was out the next over for 52, trapped lbw off Ravichandran Ashwin (1-60).
"To get out like that was disappointing," Rogers said. "I felt good today. I felt my feet were going and I had a real desire to get a good score."
Australia got off to a worst possible start to the match after winning the toss and electing to bat when Umesh Yadav (2-69) had Warner caught at second slip for a duck in just the second over with the hosts yet to score.
Joe Burns made 13 off 27 balls in his test debut after he was beaten by a Yadav ball that offered a bottom edge to wicketkeeper M.S. Dhoni. Burns, 25, took to the field to a rousing applause from the Melbourne Cricket Ground crowd of just under 70,000 and looked confident at the crease during his brief appearance.
"For a guy to play his debut test, he was pretty nerveless," Rogers said of Burns. "I like the way he plays and he looked good today."
Shaun Marsh was out for 32 in the second over of the afternoon session, caught behind off Shami while attempting a cut shot.
Shami left the field in the third session with a slight limp after appearing to hurt himself while fielding. He returned several overs later after receiving treatment for a left thigh strain.
After the match, Shami said it was a minor problem and he would be fine for the second day.
Shami replaced fellow-paceman Varun Aaron for the third test, with team management saying Aaron is returning to India to attend his grandfather's funeral.
Rogers has now hit a century and two half centuries in his three test innings at the MCG so far.
Watson will be under renewed pressure to retain his spot at No. 3 in the batting order after once again failing produce a substantial knock.
The allrounder survived a dropped catch when on 37 shortly before lunch off Shami when Dhawan dived to his left at second slip but was unable to hold onto a clear opportunity.
Australia can clinch the four-test series and reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy with a win or draw in Melbourne after a 48-run win in the first test and a four-wicket victory last week in the second test at Brisbane.