| A dejected Steve Waugh leaves the field after being given out hit wicket at the Gabba on Friday. (AFP)
Brisbane: Zaheer Khan produced a devastating spell to rip through the Australian middle order as India exploited the overcast conditions to stage a remarkable fight-back on a rain-hit second day of the first Test at the Gabba on Friday.
Zaheer picked up five wickets for 95 to help India bounce back as the home team was left gasping at 323 for nine on a day which saw more than five-and-a-half hoursí play lost to rain.
The formidable Australians, who were comfortably placed at 262 for two on the opening day, collapsed quite dramatically losing seven wickets for just 61 runs to loosen their grip on the match.
Debutant Nathan Bracken was at the crease on six with Stuart MacGill on one at close on a day in which only 16 overs were possible. It was also marked by bizarre dismissals and home captain Steve Waugh marked his first innings of the farewell series by falling hit wicket for zero.
India began with Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer striking an immaculate line and length. They consistently beat the bat and forced the batsmen to play on two minds. Agarkar trapped Justin Langer plumb in front for 121, ending his association with Damien Martyn worth 106 runs for the third wicket.
Waugh walked in for a standing ovation but was immediately involved in a horrible mix up with Martyn. As Martyn nudged Zaheer to the cover region, Waugh called for a non-existent third run and found himself and his partner at the same end. Martyn (42) graciously gave up his wicket for the captain.
But Waugh lasted only two more balls. Agarkar and Zaheer welcomed him with some lightning fast short-pitched deliveries. Soon the 38-year old veteran of 164 Tests, trying to fend a Zaheer bouncer, clipped the off-stump with his left foot on the follow through. It was the first time in his career that Waugh was being dismissed in such a manner and the 144th player in the history of the game to be out in such fashion. It was also the 22nd instance when Waugh was out for no score.
In his last Test against India, at Chennai in 2001, the batsman with 10,660 Test runs was dismissed in another unusual way when he was out handling the ball.
The hosts went in for lunch at 275 for five but the resumption was delayed by another spell of heavy rain. When action finally got underway after more than two-and-half-hoursí wait, Zaheer and Agarkar spat more venom than they had done before.
The dangerous Adam Gilchrist lasted only four balls when, eight balls into the final session, the left hander edged Zaheer to V.V.S. Laxman at second slip and was out for no score.
Simon Katich lived dangerously, under cutting the quick stuff to the third man fence. His snick off a Zaheer Ďno ballí beat the íkeeper and Rahul Dravid at first slip to bring up the 300 for Australia. Andy Bichel managed two boundaries behind square off the wicket but then deflected a rising delivery from Agarkar for Laxmanís third catch of the innings.
Katich followed Bichel to the pavilion, caught by Parthiv Patel to give Zaheer his fifth wicket.
Poor running between the wickets saw Jason Gillespie failing to beat an accurate throw from the deep by Harbhajan Singh.
Zaheerís five-wicket haul was his third in 27 Tests while Agarkar was equally impressive despite ending up with only two wickets. At the end of the day, the two seamers had carried the major portion of Indiaís bowling burden, sharing seven wickets from 48 overs of the innings so far.
The two run outs might have indirectly reduced Agarkarís tally and one of them was certainly the talking point of the day.
Waugh has now been involved in 27 run outs but he himself has been the victim only on four of those occasions. Martyn sacrificed his wicket for his retiring captain but it hurt the teamís progress as he was well set and striking the ball fluently.