Melbourne: The Boxing Day Test between Australia and India got off to an intriguing start on Monday with the momentum swinging through the day until Australia slipped from 205 for three to 214 for six in the final session on day one, which gave India a slight advantage despite a late resistance by Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle that took Australia to 277 for six.
All fears surrounding the fitness of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma were allayed by a probing spell bowled by the Indian new-ball bowlers. However, Umesh Yadav, though slightly on the expensive side, was the pick of the Indian bowlers with figures of 3 for 96. Zaheer took 2 for 49 and Ashwin 1 for 79 but Ishant remained unlucky despite going past the bat on numerous occasions.
Australia's new opening pair of David Warner and Ed Cowan got off to contrasting starts after Michael Clarke surprising chose to bat under overcast conditions on a a greenish wicket. While Warner displayed his array of strokes, including a pick-up six over mid-wicket off Yadav, after getting his eye in, debutant Cowan started nervously.
But a passing shower did the trick for India. Coming back after a 10-minute delay, Warner (37) gloved an attempted hook off Yadav that lobbed behind the stumps for a simple running catch for skipper MS Dhoni. One wicket led to another when Shaun Marsh departed for a duck in Yadav's next over to make the score 46 for two from 46 for no loss. He was guilty of playing away from his body on a fullish delivery outside his off-stump. The edge flew to Virat Kohli at point who made no mistake.
Ricky Ponting was welcomed to crease with a snorter from Yadav that strcuk him on the helmet. But Ponting didn't get rattled and in partnership with a studious Cowan took Australia to 68 for two when another drizzled forced umpires to take lunch five minutes early.
Play resumed after a 40-minute delay following the lunch break. The break this time did some good to Australia as the Indian pacers lost the momentum and were guilty of bowling short. Ponting and Cowan took advantage, bringing up Australia's hundred with a flurry of boundaries.
Australia's score swelled rapidly thereafter as both Ponting and Cowan brought up their respective fifties. But just when it looked Australia will go into tea without losing a wicket in the second session, Yadav got one to rear from Ponting's (62) off-stump that hit high on the former Australian captain's bat and flew straight to VVS Laxman in the slips. Australia then reached 170 for three at tea with Clarke and Cowan at the crease.
Australia began confidently after tea with Clarke being the aggressor in taking Australia past the 200-run mark.
The ball was 65 overs old by now and Dhoni decided to check for reverse swing by bringing Zaheer back. The seasoned pro responded splendidly by taking two wickets in as many balls to make it 205 for five from 205 for three.
Then Cowan (68) had a lapse in concentration against R Ashwin and tried to cut one close to his body. The shot ended in an edge that was neatly pouched by Dhoni to make it 214 for six, as India came back into the match.
But wicket-keeper Haddin (21 not out) and Siddle (34 not out) stepped up to the plate with unbroken resistance that not only prevented any further loss of wickets but also produced 63 runs to take Australia to 277 for six at stumps.