Ricky Ponting denied Australia’s top-order batting had technical deficiencies after the home side endured another collapse on day three of the first Test against India.
Veteran Mike Hussey showed his fighting qualities with an unbeaten 79 to guide Australia to 8-179 at stumps on Wednesday at the MCG in front of a crowd of 40,556.
Australia lead by 230 runs with two second-innings wickets in hand after a day of drama which included 15 wickets falling.
With his spot in the team under threat and coming off a first-ball duck in the first innings, Hussey steadied Australia’s innings, hitting seven boundaries in his 196-minute performance.
James Pattinson is three not out.
Offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin found the outside edge of Hussey’s bat on 69 but Rahul Dravid dropped a simple chance at slip with the score on 6-163.
Hussey and fellow veteran Ponting (60) shared a 115-run partnership after Australia had been 4-27.
It was 37-year-old Ponting’s second half-century of the match in a gritty display with his Test spot under scrutiny.
Ponting said the way the pitch was playing made it difficult for batsmen when they first came to the crease, while India opener Virender Sehwag described it as spongy.
Australia’s initial collapse was embarrassing after last week’s three-day batting camp which attempted to look at reasons behind the side’s first-innings tally of 136 in this month’s Hobart Test against New Zealand.
“Of course we’ve spoken about that and we have tried to address it,” Ponting said.
“A couple of guys were probably a little bit unlucky. I think we have three chop-ons in our first four or five dismissals.
“If they just miss the stumps then it doesn’t look that bad.
“That’s not anything technical I don’t think with a lot of those guys.”
Ponting said Hussey played a great innings, but more was required.
“We need Mike Hussey now to go on and get a big score,” Ponting said.
“We’re 230 ahead now, which I think is a reasonable total for India to have to chase. Ideally we’d like to make a few more than that.”
Sehwag said the game was evenly balanced.
“Anything less than 300 is a gettable target,” he said.
India had resumed on 3-214 and lost 7-68 as they were bowled out for 282 at lunch.
The tourists fought back immediately. Umesh Yadav (4-49) bowled Australia’s David Warner (5) at 1-13 and the paceman struck again three balls later when Ed Cowan (8) was out lbw after offering no shot.
Shaun Marsh (3) dragged a ball onto his stumps in similar fashion to Warner.
Skipper Michael Clarke was bowled by Ishant Sharma for one. Clarke had played onto his stumps for the second time in the match.
Ponting was caught at gully off Zaheer Khan’s bowling at 5-142. However the ex-skipper was fortunate not to be given out lbw to Zaheer on 15 with the total on 51.
Australia slumped to 8-166 as Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon departed.
Earlier, Australia’s swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus claimed his maiden five-wicket haul of 5-75, including 4-25 on Wednesday.
Hilfenhaus took the key wicket of Dravid (68) from the second ball of the day.