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Spicy starter sets the course

By the third ball of the 49th over, the Australian journalists were so familiar with the region they were discussing the oranges of Nagpur and the inordinate number of cotton farmers committing suicide in the region. Rohit Bhaskar reports. Scorecard | Day 1, Melbourne Test: Zaheer, Yadav keep Australia at bayvideo | The good, bad and ugly

india Updated: Dec 27, 2011 02:07 IST
Rohit Bhaskar

Following the first ball of the 16th over, the eastern Maharashtra region of Vidarbha began trending at the MCG's Ron Casey Media Centre. By the third ball of the 49th over, the Australian journalists were so familiar with the region they were discussing the oranges of Nagpur and the inordinate number of cotton farmers committing suicide in the region.

The main talking point, of course, was rangy pacer Umesh Yadav. The 24-year-old got the first three Australian wickets, including Ricky Ponting, who looked primed for his fifth Boxing Day ton, with a peach of a delivery that shot up and shaped away from length, finding a hopping Ponting's edge. A delivery eerily similar to the one Ishant Sharma bowled to announce his arrival on the big stage at Perth just under four years ago.

Tricky decision
It’s not often a cloudy Boxing Day is greeted with relief at the 'G. But, then again it's not often that hailstorms hit Melbourne on Christmas Day. After winning the toss, with the pitch and conditions asking out for a gamble, Michael Clarke opted for the conventional decision to bat. Of course, given their recent woes against swing bowling as highlighted by South Africa and New Zealand, even this was no less a gamble.

Zaheer Khan, and Ishant Sharma in particular, who skipper MS Dhoni was using in short-spells, got the ball to dance around. However, David Warner's counter-attacking ways began to pay dividends as he looked to race away.

Yadav’s third over was particularly generous, as first Ed Cowan, who was on 2 off his first 28 balls, struck a rasping drive for his first boundary in Test cricket, and grew leaps and bounds from that point. Then Warner hit him for a four and pulled him for a 90-metre six as he continued to drop it short, something he was guilty of all through the day.

Mistimed hook
An over after that, the teams went off the field as the drizzle became heavier. However, soon the players were back on. First ball after the return, another short one from Yadav was there to be hit, but Warner mistimed it and looped a simple catch into the gloves of Dhoni, running to his right.

With a wicket to his name, Yadav upped the ante. Shaun Marsh never got the chance to get his eye in and was on the backfoot from the first delivery. Soon he would be back in the pavilion as he guided one straight into the palms of Virat Kohli at gully.

Ricky Ponting came in to a thunderous applause but two balls later he was seeing stars. He went for a pull but was too slow and the ball brushed his elbow and thudded into the helmet grille.

Vintage shots
Although Ponting found his footing, he literally lost it a few times playing shots early in his innings. But pulling like old, he was stroking boundaries of anyone who dropped it short.

At the other end, Cowan looked every bit a Test player, hitting his shots and leaving anything outside off-stump.

Australia at 159/2, with tea looming, were confident they had weathered the storm. While the sun came out the storm was far from over as Yadav got rid of Ponting for 62.

Michael Clarke batted positively with Cowan before three wickets in the space of 13 balls undid all the good work. That included the dismissal of Cowan, who was given caught behind off Ashwin for a patient 68.

It was then left to Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle to repair the damage, which they did quite admirably as India frittered away the advantage of the second new ball. Siddle was on 34 at stumps, guiding Australia to 277-6 and leaving honours even.

Scorecard | Day 1, Melbourne Test: Zaheer, Yadav keep Australia at bayvideo | The good, bad and ugly