Australia's bowlers vindicated Ricky Ponting's bold first innings declaration with a disciplined and aggressive display on the second day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Shane Watson and Nathan Hauritz followed their enterprising half-centuries with a top-order wicket apiece, but the major blow was landed by Peter Siddle on the stroke of stumps when Mohammad Yousuf, the Pakistan captain, was ruled by Billy Doctrove not to have edged to Brad Haddin, only to have the decision overturned by the video umpire.
Asoka de Silva's ruling left the Pakistanis reeling at 4 for 109 in pursuit of Australia's 5 (dec) for 454. Hot Spot and slow motion replays supported de Silva's assertion that Yousuf gloved the ball down the leg-side in a flinching motion, but the knowledge will come as little comfort to the tourists, who are now faced with a mountainous climb to remain competitive in the match.
Ponting demonstrated Australia's ruthless intent by delcaring less than an hour after the lunch break on Sunday, having watched each of his first five batsmen, the nightwatchman included, notch half centuries. Mitchell Johnson was first to back-up his captain's endeavour by trapping Imran Farhat lbw to a tailing delivery, while Watson, Hauritz and Peter Siddle swung into action in the final session to leave the tourists in a grim fight for survival.
Hauritz, contending with a groin injury that hampered him throughout his 152-ball stay at the crease, coaxed Faisal Iqbal into a cut-shot that was accepted by Michael Clarke at slip. Watson then pressed home Australia's advantage with an excellent spell of reverse swing bowling that accounted for Salman Butt (45) and severely tested the defences of Mohammad Yousuf and Umar Akmal.
Much of the pent-up frustration of the previous day's run-out was released when, from the beginning of his spell, Watson hooped the old ball both ways. His set-up of Butt was one to make Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Pakistan's pioneers of reverse swing, proud - a succession of away-swingers followed by one which attacked the pads and survived a video appeal.
Doug Bollinger ensured there was no respite for Pakistan's batsmen, attacking the stumps consistently and conceding runs at less than two-per-over. But the final indignity for the tourists was inflicted by Siddle, whose removal of Yousuf eroded any optimism Pakistan had mustered on the second day. Yousuf looked the most assured of Pakistan's batsmen, opening his account with a straight six off Hauritz and battening down thereafter, but his dismissal left only the brothers Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq standing between Australia and the tail.
Earlier, Michael Hussey (82) and Hauritz (75) took Australia's unconverted century tally to an unflattering 20 for the summer, but not before they had propelled the hosts into a position of dominance. Like Watson, Simon Katich and Ponting before him, Hussey appeared in superb touch on a flattening MCG surface. Strong on the cut shot and off his pads, the veteran left-hander provided further reason to believe the worst of his extended form trough was behind him as he registered his 19th Test half-century with a degree of fluency and poise all but absent in his batting for much of 2009.
But with a ton in sight, Hussey fell victim to the impressive Saeed Ajmal, who posed a constant threat to the Australians with deft changes of pace, flight and turn. Ajmal rapped Hussey on the pads while attempting to sweep and was awarded a well-deserved wicket by Doctrove - one upheld by the video umpire on appeal.
Ajmal might well have had Hauritz, the nightwatchman, dismissed earlier in the morning with a direct-hit run-out. Replays showed the ball striking the stumps with Hauritz short of his ground, however they could not prove definitively whether the bail was entirely out of the groove. Hauritz advanced his total to a career-best 75 with a series of strokes more befitting the Twenty20 arena before eventually falling victim to Abdur Rauf via the video. He was ruled lbw by de Silva after being initially spared by Rudi Koertzen, the on-field official.
Of some concern to the Australian camp was Hauritz's grimacing reaction to a quick single taken late in the first session. A groin injury almost ruled him out of this Test - Steven Smith, the New South Wales legspinner, was called in as cover - however his introduction into the attack after just nine overs of the Pakistan innings allayed concerns.
The early use of Hauritz, coupled with the surprise declaration, were the latest in a series of aggressive captaincy moves from the reputedly conservative Ponting. An early closure and a rare enforcement of the follow-on in Brisbane last month set the tone for the summer, and the Australian captain maintained course in the first innings at the MCG with his pursuit of Pakistan.