Sydney: A tinge of grass left by the curator on the SCG wicket did the trick on day one of the second Test between Australia and India. Instead of batsmen making merry on a gorgeous sunny day, wickets fell like ninepins.
India, after electing to bat first, were bundled out for a paltry 191, while Australia in reply were 116 for 3 at stumps. All 13 wickets that fell on Tuesday were taken by the fast bowlers.
It was the same old story for India, as the batsmen once again fell prey to the immaculate line and lengths bowled by the Aussie pacers. James Pattinson yet again wrecked havoc with four wickets and was superbly backed by Ben Hilfenhaus (3 for 51) Peter Siddle (3 for 55).
Michael Clarke plays a shot during his unbeaten innings of 47 on day one. (Getty Images)
For India, only Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni looked comfortable at the crease. While the former once again looked in his elements during his knock of 41, the latter showed more maturity in his unbeaten 57.
Zaheer Khan struck immediately for India as he removed the top three Aussie batsmen - David Warner (8), Ed Cowan (18) and Shaun Marsh (0) - cheaply, before Ricky Ponting (44) and skipper Michael Clarke (47) kept the visitors at bay for the rest of the evening with an unbeaten 79-run partnership. Except Zaheer, the other Indian pacers - Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav - were off-colour, pitching the ball either too short or too full to the batsmen.
India got off to a terrible start, losing Gautam Gambhir for a duck in the very first over. Gambhir, who has been found wanting so far on this tour to the balls leaving him outside off, again fell, jabbing at a Pattinson delivery.
Siddle once again accounted for Rahul Dravid (5), who tried to flick a length delivery, inside edging to the pad, giving Cowan a simple catch at short leg. Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar took the score past 50, although the former was lucky to survive a scare when Ponting in the slip region dropped a sitter off Hilfenhaus. But the brash opener couldn't make it count as a full-pitched delivery from Pattinson took a thick outside edge from Sehwag's bat before going into the hands of Brad Haddin.
The 21-year-old paceman struck again just before lunch when he got rid of VVS Laxman (2) whose unsuccessful drive flew to Marsh at third slip. And the going got even tougher for India when Siddle sent Virat Kohli (23) back when the latter seemed to be coming to terms with the situation. India had lost half their side with less than 100 on the board.
Pattinson had India further reeling when he got the prized wicket of Tendulkar, who played a length delivery by Pattinson on to his stumps. Hilfenhaus then came into the act, taking three wickets in quick succession. He first ended a 54-run partnership between Dhoni and R Ashwin by dismissing the latter for 20, before getting Zaheer with a nasty delivery on the next ball. Ishant Sharma (0), though he kept out the hat-trick ball, couldn't survive another snorter from the bowler.
The Indian innings ended with Dhoni stranded at the non-striker's end and Yadav getting out without scoring. The No. 11 batsman was snapped up merrily by Haddin, his third catch of the innings.
Zaheer swung the ball ominously from the outset, taking the wickets of Warner and Marsh. Both got out poking at deliveries leaving them after pitching on a good length. The left-arm pacer struck once again when he trapped Cowan right in front. But Ponting and Clarke ensured that the hosts didn't lose any more wickets and took an upper hand before the end of day's play.