Hussey gives Victoria the edge
New South Wales 9 for 253 dec and 0 for 20 lead Victoria 8 for 256 dec (Hussey 95, Bracken 4-40) by 17 runs
David Hussey's 95 helped Victoria scrape into a first-innings lead despite Nathan Bracken's best efforts to shake off his limited-overs tag at the MCG. Bracken proved he can still wear batsmen down over time despite becoming an ODI specialist, collecting 4 for 40 from 25 overs, but his team-mates struggled to apply the pressure from the other end.
Victoria declared with a three-run advantage just before stumps, returning the favour after the visitors gave them eight challenging overs late on the first day. The Blues survived and reached 0 for 20 from their three overs as Phillip Hughes raced to 16.
The Bushrangers made heavy work of overhauling the Blues' 253 after some middle-order setbacks. Bryce McGain and Gerard Denton crawled over the line with a 23-run ninth-wicket stand just when it looked like Hussey's work might have gone in vain.
Hussey looked at ease from his first ball and played some terrific cover drives early off Doug Bollinger and Matthew Nicholson. He was keen to get on the front foot and used a combination of his bottom-hand strength and excellent timing, leaning into drives from all the fast bowlers.
One of his best was a perfect on drive for four when Stuart Clark over-pitched slightly, although he also punished anything short. The unusually chatty Melbourne crowd targeted the in-form Bollinger and so did Hussey, pulling a pair of fours confidently through midwicket when Bollinger tried to bounce him into submission.
Katich was left wondering who could remove Hussey and the unexpected answer he came up with was a pair of red-headed medium-pacers. Greg Mail and Dominic Thornely shared the old ball and the change of speed troubled Hussey, who became tied down in the 90s.
Eventually he tried to manufacture something, working Mail from outside off stump straight to Beau Casson at midwicket. Once Michael Klinger lost his dominant partner he fell to the other part-timer in the next over, when Thornely angled one back to bowl him between bat and pad for 21.
The Hussey-Klinger partnership was worth 80, but when it ended Victoria threatened to crumble. Matthew Wade edged the second new-ball behind to give a quiet Clark his only wicket and Shane Harwood was caught at second slip off Bracken before the tail came good.
It had been Bracken who kept the Blues in the contest throughout the day, probing constantly outside off stump and moving the ball both ways. Victoria's batsmen refused to try any funny business during his first-rate spell in the opening session and at lunch he had bowled seven maidens and had 1 for 5 from nine overs.
Bracken subdued the batsmen so effectively that when he did give slightly more width Brad Hodge tried to pounce with a wild cut but was out of practice and edged to Brad Haddin for 32. Andrew McDonald badly misjudged the angle when Bracken came around the wicket and lost his off stump not offering a shot.
Nick Jewell (25) had already succumbed to Bracken's nagging line, falling lbw to a ball that straightened late. But as dangerous as Bracken looked, his results might have been even better - and the Blues may have taken first-innings points - had his fast-bowling colleagues copied his discipline.
Brydon Coverdale is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo