India’s rejection of the decision review system in their Test series with Australia provoked its first controversy yesterday as the home side lost late wickets on the opening day of the first Test.
The Australians stumbled from 205 for three with three wickets tumbling in 18 balls to finish the day at 277 for six, with Brad Haddin on 21 and Peter Siddle not out 34.
However, the first day of the four-Test series before a 70,068 Boxing Day crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was marred by the contentious dismissal of senior batsman Michael Hussey.
Hussey fell for his third Test golden duck in eight innings and was disgusted to be given out after replays appeared to show the delivery from Zaheer Khan had brushed his sleeve and not his bat.
Hussey was prevented from referring the umpire’s verdict to the video umpire as the Indian cricket board has refused to use the Decision Review System (DRS) in the series over concerns about the accuracy of electronic aids.
It could prove a career-ending dismissal for Hussey, whose future in the Australia team is increasingly under threat amid a run of low scores.
“I feel for any batsman who gets out, it’s a bit of a gut-wrenching experience, whether it’s your first ball or you’re 150,” said Ed Cowan, who anchored the Australia innings with a stoic 68 on his debut.
“Of course, I was disappointed for him [Hussey],” Cowan said. “It was a massive moment in the game, it was a huge momentum [changer]. We just had a 100-run partnership, wrestled back momentum and then almost a 50-run partnership, and we felt we were half an hour away from nailing them, really grinding them into the dust.”
Cowan said it was not an issue of the DRS, but the vagaries of umpiring decisions.
“Today, momentum went against us because of it. Two of your top six [batsmen], but that’s the game and we’ll take the good with the bad,” he said.
India paceman Umesh Yadav, who took three wickets, refused to be drawn into the controversy.
“It’s part of the game and I’d rather not comment on it,” Yadav said. “Whether it’s bad or good decisions, it’s part of the game.”
Australia were in a strong position before paceman Zaheer Khan, playing in his first Test match since July, removed Clarke and Hussey with consecutive deliveries.
Cowan went three overs later, ending a 294-minute vigil when he feathered a catch behind off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
The left-hander had batted for almost five hours and the best part of 68 overs after skipper Michael Clarke had won the toss.
Replacing chancy opener Phillip Hughes for his first Test match, he protected his wicket with steely patience and a willingness to leave the ball in his 177-ball knock.
Clarke looked in good touch before he attempted to cut Zaheer, only to play on to his stumps for 31, while Hussey went next ball, adjudged to have got an edge to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Ricky Ponting scored his 59th Test half-century and the 10th against India before he fell to Yadav, finding V.V.S. Laxman at second slip for 62 in the only wicket to fall in the middle session.
Yet again the former Australia captain failed to go on to claim his century and it is now 33 innings and almost two years since his last Test ton.
Ponting put on 113 runs with Cowan for the third wicket to steady the Australia innings after the first two wickets fell on 46.