Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 1st day December 26, 2011

Cowan, Yadav shine on see-saw day


Australia 6 for 277 (Cowan 68, Ponting 62, Yadav 3-96) v India
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Australia's batsmen scrambled to 6 for 277 against a shrewd and opportunistic India on day one of the Boxing Day Test, and would not have progressed that far without a meritorious debut from Ed Cowan in front of 70,068 spectators at the MCG.

Losing Michael Hussey to a decision that would have been reversed with the aid of technology - Cowan also had reason to query his exit - the hosts were still some way short of a substantial total by the close. Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle were established however, and their contributions will be critical when play resumes.

Cowan's 68, in 294 minutes and 177 balls, was no more or less than he had promised to deliver as a circumspect, organised opening bat. But its influence on proceedings was lessened by the others' failure to bat around him, save for an innings of 62 from Ricky Ponting that alternated between edgy and elegant.

India's captain MS Dhoni rotated his bowlers expertly, recovering from the hour after lunch when Ponting and Cowan had threatened to carry the day. India's refusal to accept the DRS also allowed the visitors to place pressure on the umpires Marais Erasmus and Ian Gould in the time-honoured style, achieving the desired result in the final session.

Zaheer Khan turned the day India's way with the removal of Michael Clarke and Hussey to successive, reverse-swinging balls, after Umesh Yadav demonstrated his knack for speed and wickets with a trio either side of a profligate post-lunch spell. R Ashwin accounted for Cowan in the following over and gained appreciable turn at times to suggest he will be a threat across this series.

Opening after Clarke won a quite ambiguous toss, Cowan and David Warner walked to the middle under overcast skies to a surface the offered the promise of early seam to augment the swing offered by the atmosphere. First strike was taken by the debutant, and Cowan responded by playing out Zaheer's well-directed opening over with plenty of nerves but just as much good sense. His first run arrived in the second over with a tap wide of mid on, before Warner commenced with a streaky inside edge to the fine-leg boundary.

From this inauspicious beginning Warner was quickly into stride, cuffing a handful of boundaries in between sensible pushes and nudges around the ground's vast expanses. Zaheer moved the ball and Ishant Sharma bounced it, but Australia's openers negotiated their opening spells with as much confidence as could be expected. The introduction of Yadav prompted Cowan to unfurl one glorious straight drive amid his otherwise abstemious defence, and Warner followed up in the same over by biffing the bowler through cover, then hooking uproariously into the crowd.

A brief rain delay broke the rhythm of the stand, and when the players returned Warner perished immediately, attempting to repeat his hook at Yadav and gloving gently behind to Dhoni. Yadav had his tail up, firing down his deliveries with plenty of speed, and had Marsh struck on the pad first up. Having played only one Twenty20 innings since his return to fitness after a painful back complaint that afflicted him in South Africa, Marsh did not look at ease, and to his seventh ball he walked too late into a drive and sliced it to gully.

Suddenly 0 for 46 had become two for the same score, and Ponting's arrival brought a crowd response that suggested both appreciation and trepidation for Australia's former captain. Off his second ball Ponting swivelled to hook a short ball, but was struck a stunning blow to the jaw. Ponting was still alert enough to side-foot the rebound away from his stumps, but it was another reminder of how his command over the bouncer has slipped ever since West Indies' Kemar Roach pinned him on the arm at Perth in 2009.

Through it all Cowan maintained his composure, cracking Ishant through the covers with some flourish to add a second boundary after taking a blow to the body from Yadav, and Ponting gradually began to find a little more equilibrium. He slipped over while pulling at Zaheer, but the ungainly follow-through was less important than the sight of the ball skimming to the backward square-leg boundary.

Resumption was delayed by further showers, and when it arrived India's bowlers lapsed in line, length and attitude. Cowan was granted the chance to gather momentum with a handful of boundaries, one a chancy cut over gully but the rest pleasingly fluent, and Ponting also took advantage of some wayward stuff from Yadav in particular. Swiftly the 50-run stand and the Australian 100 were raised, in a union between a Tasmanian living in Sydney (Ponting) and a New South Welshman renewed in Hobart (Cowan).

Some of Ponting's strokes were reprised from the pages of his regal best, one back foot punch off the toes from Ishant more than enough to get the crowd cooing. They were on their feet soon after as his half-century was raised, via a rather more ungainly slog sweep for three. The rain delayed the tea break and Cowan took his time to reach his own 50, but a nudge into the offside brought it in 120 new-ball-blunting balls.

Yadav returned to the attack for a spell near the interval, and found something approaching the vim of his morning burst. Ponting was unnerved by his first ball, rearing off a length, and dismissed by the third, which swerved away on a line just close enough to off stump for an uncertain batsman. VVS Laxman held the nick, the union was broken at 113, and Ponting's interminable wait for another Test century continued.

Clarke offered useful company to Cowan for a time, the pair adding 46 either side of the interval. India responded by tightening up, and only four runs had been accrued from three overs when Zaheer beat Clarke's outside edge with a delivery that zipped away, then forced a cuff onto the stumps from the next when the batsman shaped to cut far too close to his body.

The sin of Clarke's dismissal for 31 was compounded next ball, Hussey fending at a short-pitcher from Zaheer that passed close to, but did not appear to touch, bat or glove on the way through to Dhoni. The umpire Erasmus intuited an edge and raised his finger, and with no DRS recourse, Hussey had to go.

While Haddin averted the hat-trick, Cowan now let his guard down, cutting impatiently at Ashwin and was adjudged by Gould to have offered the thinnest of edges to Dhoni. Hot-spot showed no evidence of contact, adding another unhappy chapter to the saga of technology and its inconsistent use. Batting as though they were aware of the total's inadequacy, Haddin and Siddle dug in, and eluded a tight lbw appeal each. They will face a refreshed India in the morning.

Ishant and Zaheer had both been ruled fit and were joined in the attack by Yadav and Ashwin, who won the spinner's spot ahead of Pragyan Ojha. Australia's line-up was confirmed two days ago and there were no late changes, with Ben Hilfenhaus in for Mitchell Starc and Cowan named at the top of the order. Australia's 427th Test cricketer, Cowan was presented with his baggy green by Dean Jones, before the toss.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 29, 2011, 3:33 GMT

    Hahahaha...... DRS or not.....The Aussies don't seem too troubled. India is down for the count now.

  • Dummy4 on December 27, 2011, 11:18 GMT

    When the DRS was introduced the rules should have just made it mandatory. I think today people were confused that after Dravid was out it was referred to make sure it wasn't a no ball. Because the decision was referred and Dravid was not out it has made the situation even worse. Also the excessive appealing is in every country we have seen it time and time again. That was one of the reasons the introduction of the DRS was introduced. No other country has denied its use as I think it is fair towards both teams. So many times in the past have we seen bad calls now we have a chance to improve the game a little better by making it fairer. I don't understand why they do not wish to use it, especially if it comes down to winning the series and a bad decision is made against them a lot will just call it Karma and Australians will be branded in the Indian papers as Cheats. So the ICC should have a majority vote with the cricketing nations to see if it should be mandatory.

  • Bob on December 27, 2011, 9:24 GMT

    Here's a thought for all those who are still opposed to the use of DRS using the old " you win some, you lose some.. they eventually cancel themselves out" excuse. That is a fallacy. An incorrect NOT OUT decision can never compensate for an incorrect OUT decision, nor vice versa, because the simple fact is that they are two wrong decisions, and as every sane person knows, two wrongs never make a right.

  • gunjan on December 27, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    @Dinosaurus....It is not that India said no DRS only for this series. They say no to every series. If Australia or any country has a problem with that...they are free not to organize a series. After such consistent approach throughout all series at home and away, just because Australia wants to use it, does not mean every country should agree to it. Looking at the past, Indian team should not agree to anything Australian team has to offer. People like Clarke have a tendency to wait for umpire's decision when they nick it to 1st slip...and then expect others to take their word whether they have taken a clean catch or not..and if you look at the records...he said it was a clean catch when replays suggested that it was not clean.... At that time every one called indians as we all know who are the whingers..!!

  • Bob on December 27, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    @Rama Prasad.... "Both teams agreed to one set of rules" Wrong.!!! Both teams DID NOT agree a set of rules. The conditions set down by the ICC state that BOTH teams must agree to the use of the DRS. If one team (in this and almost every other case to date) India disagreed to it's use. So in fact it was the non-agreement of both teams that precluded it's use in this series.

  • Dummy4 on December 27, 2011, 4:46 GMT

    @phoenixsteve You needn't mention Sachin in the same breath as Bradman. Bradman himself did it :)

  • Dummy4 on December 27, 2011, 4:41 GMT

    @Hayden Field - The same argument of excessive appealing can be applied to the Australian team as well. The last time India toured here Dravid was given out caught behind when he had missed the ball by a foot. Yes, by a foot. The Australians had appealed like their lives depended on it. I wonder whether you advocated dropping Australia from world cricket then. Or even thought about fining the team $100,000 each for claiming 2 clearly grassed catches. From what you say, it sounds like 'excessive appealing' is a problem only when India does it.

  • Wayne on December 27, 2011, 3:08 GMT

    I suppose by now everyone should have realized why the Indians do not want the DRS.The example was there for all to see today.Take the case of Ed Cowan and Hussey.They clearly did not hit the ball which even most of the Indian fielders knew but they keep on appealing like mad men and put pressure on the umpires to give them out.This is the famed Indian style of taking wickets by intimidating the umpires rather than legally take wickets.That is how this poor Indian attack get their wickets and that is how these Indians have been winning most of their matches in India where they play 90% of their cricket.They could not win even 1 match against England because they were too good for the Indians and are rightly No. 1 in Test cricket.If the umpires rule against them like Bucknor or Harper, the BCCI with the help of the ICC will kick them out of the Umpires panel.

  • Brian on December 27, 2011, 2:34 GMT

    Don't know what you were watching, cricdoc22, or what yarns your commentators were spinning, but millions of viewers have repeatedly seen Haddins' LBW-not-out pitch on middle and "hit" middle two-thirds up - routine HawkEye stuff. Most trainee umpires would have got that one right every time.

  • Mark on December 27, 2011, 1:55 GMT

    All this rubbish about technology being 100% is just a distraction. Nothing in life is 100%, nothing is perfect, however a system which only overturns the umpires decision when it is obvious that the umpire is wrong is a good one, and a better system than what we had before. Regarding the argument that it is the same for each team, well why don't they pick umpires with only one eye - it would be the same for both teams right? Picking a more defective system and then justifying it as equal is rubbish. The technology is more likely to produce a fair result. Why don't the BCCI want a fair result?

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