Ponting, Hussey steady Australian innings


MELBOURNE, Australia, December 28 – Senior batsmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey were steering Australia out of early trouble against India on the third day of the first Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

At tea, Ponting was unbeaten on 33 with Hussey on 29 to have Australia at 81 for four, after crashing to 27 for four.

That represented an overall lead of 132 runs after Australia led by 51 runs on the first innings.

Paceman Umesh Yadav claimed the first three wickets to have the Australians under threat of missing out on a decent total to defend in the fourth innings.

Yadav struck twice in four balls in his fourth over, removing both openers David Warner (5) and first innings top-scorer Ed Cowan (8).

Warner was bowled playing on from a loose shot, and Cowan was leg before wicket while padding up.

Australia’s woes deepened when Shaun Marsh dragged a wide Yadav delivery onto his stumps for three and skipper Michael Clarke followed in the next over.

Clarke played on and was bowled by Ishant Sharma for one.

Ben Hilfenhaus earlier claimed his best wicket haul in Tests to give Australia a handy innings lead as India were dismissed for 282 at lunch.

The Tasmanian swing bowler, recalled for his first Test match in almost a year, captured five for 75.

India lost seven wickets for 68 off 28.1 overs after they looked in command at 214 for two late on Tuesday.

Australia got off to a flyer when Rahul Dravid was bowled second ball by Hilfenhaus on his overnight score of 68.

Hilfenhaus breached the famed defence of “The Wall” and clipped his off-stump just five balls after Tuesday’s last-over dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar for 73 by Peter Siddle.

Dravid, second only to Tendulkar as Test cricket’s most prolific-scoring batsman, batted for 187 balls with six boundaries.

V.V.S. Laxman took 20 balls to get off the mark and fell for two, caught low down by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin off Siddle.

Although Laxman has a great batting record in Australia with four Test centuries, he has scored just 113 runs in seven innings at 16.14 at the MCG, one of the least productive venues in his 131 Tests.

Virat Kohli, playing in his fifth Test, was next to go, feathering an enticing Hilfenhaus outswinger to Haddin for 11.

Hilfenhaus struck again in his next over when skipper M.S. Dhoni got a thick outside edge to be caught in the gully by Hussey for just six.

Nightwatchman Ishant Sharma became Hilfenhaus’s fifth wicket when he was taken behind by Haddin for 11 off 69 balls.

Ravi Ashwin showed resistance with 31 off 35 balls with three fours and a top-edged six before he was last man out to Siddle. Yadav remained two not out.

Wicketkeeper Haddin finished with five catches for the innings.