When either side reflects on the end result of the four-Test series, the proceedings of yesterday, Day Three of the first Test here at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), should have a massive bearing. A lot happened.
India lost their last eight first-innings wickets for 68 runs, Ben Hilfenhaus went from stand-in to star bowler within 24 hours, Ricky Ponting scored his fourth 50 in six outings to finally dismiss doubters, Umesh Yadav and R Ashwin proved that India's attack was not Zaheer Khan-reliant, Michael Hussey avoided a King Pair with a counter-punching knock, Rahul Dravid dropped a sitter at slip that could determine the runs his team will have to chase today.
In a nutshell, 15 wickets fell for 247 runs. The Test match is most likely to be spared a fifth day. The day began with the never-ending wait for VVS Laxman's arrival at the crease, after Dravid was bowled first ball by Hilfenhaus, in what was almost identical to Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal on Day Two. Sourav Ganguly had said that Laxman took long showers before going out to bat.
Laxman's greatest quality is to play the ball late, counter swing. But that led to his downfall as he didn't oblige to a forward defense off Peter Siddle, was caught behind. Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni perished very quickly, the latter to a reckless shot that flew to gully. India were suddenly in tatters at 245-7.
Nightwatchman Ishant Sharma hung around for 69 balls, Ashwin -- who scored a ton in his last Test outing -- scored 31 off 35 balls, before India wounded up on 282 -- giving the hosts a useful 51-run lead. Australia then slumped to 27-4 thanks to inspired spells by Yadav and Ishant before Ponting and Hussey rescued them with a 115-run stand.
Ashwin went through Hussey's blade on numerous occasions, but had to settle for Nathan Lyon's wicket. Hussey remained unbeaten on 79 with the dodgy James Pattinson. Australia drew stumps on 179-8, lead of 230 runs.
Ponting felt that Hussey and Pattinson could take the game beyond India's reach. "Tomorrow morning is going to be really crucial. We know that Pattinson has got some solid promise with the bat. He's going to have to show that for us. And we need Hussey to go on and get a big score and continue to push the game forward.
We're 230 ahead now, which I think is a reasonable total for India to have to chase, but ideally we'd like to make a few more than that," he said.
Sehwag though defended his team's terrible collapse yesterday. "It was a good day for us. The match is evenly balanced," he said. "Any team can win from here.
If we have to win the game, we really have to bat well on the fourth and fifth days. The bowlers delivered, especially in the first spell. Yadav, Ishant and Zak, they bowled beautifully. And through the day, Ashwin bowled well," he added.