Melbourne: On a day when the pitch was supposed to be best for batting, 15 wickets fell for 247 runs to put the opening Test match between Australia and India in the balance with the hosts 179 for 8 at stumps, leading by 230 runs.
India, who started day three with the prospect of taking the lead, lost seven wickets for 68 runs in the morning session to slump to 282 all out, conceding a first-innings lead of 51 runs. Ben Hilfenhaus made a successful comeback to the Australian Test squad with figures of 5 for 75, while Peter Siddle took the last wicket to fall, ending with figures of 3 for 63.
India then made a remarkable comeback through Umesh Yadav who ran through Australia's top order with 4 for 49, and despite a century stand for the fifth wicket between Ricky Ponting (60) and Michael Hussey (79 not out), India grabbed eight wickets to set up a fascinating fourth day.
Yadav removed David Warner (5) and Shaun Marsh (3) who chopped their attempted drives onto the stumps, while Ed Cowan (8) was trapped lbw by him while padding up an incoming delivery. With Ponting early at the wicket, MS Dhoni brought his nemesis Ishant Sharma to bowl. However, it was captain Michael Clarke (1) who became Ishant's victim when he got an inside edge that went on to hit his leg stump.
At 27 for 4 Australia were staring down the barrel, but seasoned campaigners Ponting and Hussey came to the team's rescue with a counter-attack that produced 115 runs for the fifth wicket. Ponting was the aggressor earlier on but it was Hussey who grabbed eyeballs with his strokeplay. Watching all his ploys to dislodge the partnership fail, Dhoni brought back his spearhead Zaheer Khan who responded with Ponting's wicket, the former Australian captain splicing a drive straight to Virender Sehwag at gully.
Inevitably, one wicket led to another as the left-armer got rid of Brad Haddin (6) soon after Ponting's dismissal. The ball was reversing by now, prompting Dhoni to bring back Yadav for a final spell. The move paid off as the speedster got his fourth wicket when Siddle (4) poked an angling delivery to Dhoni who pouched a superb take.
Dhoni persisted with R Ashwin from one end and it almost struck gold. However, Rahul Dravid - the leading catcher in Test cricket - made a hash of a simple slip catch offered by Hussey when he was 69. Ashwin delivered the eighth wicket when he trapped Nathan Lyon on the backfoot for 0, but Hussey and James Pattinson negotiated the remaining overs to take Australia to stumps with two wickets in hand.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, it was Dravid's dismissal off the second ball of the day that triggered an embarassing collapse. Dravid's off stump was sent cartwheeling
by Hilfenhaus without the No. 3 adding to his overnight 68. Siddle then removed VVS Laxman in his first over of the day to make it 221 for 5.
Meanwhile, nightwatchman Ishant continued his vigil with solid defence. But he soon lost Virat Kohli (11) and Dhoni (6) to Hilfenhaus, both the result of irresponsible shots. Kohli edged a regulation catch to Haddin while Dhoni scooped a loose drive to Hussey at gully. Ishant's vigil was finally ended by Hilfenahus for 11, which made the score 254 for 8. The Tasmanian seamer, drafted into the squad as a result of injuries to Australia's preferred pace bowlers, picked up his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests to cap a superb morning for the home team.
Ashwin played a few useful strokes, including a six over the wicketkeeper, to contribute a valuable 31 before Siddle came back to remove him, after Zaheer (4) was castled by Pattinson. That ended the Indian innings at 282, leaving them 51 runs short of Australia's first innings score of 333.