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Aussies post 337 for nine

Melbourne: Captain Anil Kumble led from the front by scalping five wickets as Australia squandered a flying start to allow India come back strongly on Day I of the opening Test at the MCG on Wednesday.

Electing to bat, the hosts got off to a solid start with Matthew Hayden (124) and Phil Jaques (66) putting on 135 runs for the first wicket but the visitors bounced back splendidly to restrict Australia to 337 for nine at stumps.

The formidable Australians threatened to seize early control on Boxing Day and were cruising along briskly before the complexion of the game changed after the lunch break.

Post lunch, the Indians ripped through the strong Australian batting line-up.

Mitchell Johnson (10) and Stuart Clark (21) were at the crease at stumps on an eventful day watched by a sizeable crowd.

The seasoned Kumble turned out to be the hero as he produced a devastating spell to pick up five for 84 runs, his 35th five-wicket haul to help his team bounce back on a “dubious” track at the MCG.

Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan also played a stellar role by taking three wickets while fellow paceman Rudra Pratap Singh chipped in with one to thwart Australia’s hopes of putting up an imposing first innings total on the board.

The burly Hayden, who has always scored heavily against the Indians, continued to torment the visitors by notching up his 28th Test century but none of the other Australian batsmen, barring Jaques, could get going against a disciplined bowling attack.

The turning point came when Australia lost three wickets in the hour after lunch and then six more in the final session of play.

The world champions crumbled under pressure as batsmen after batsmen tried to hit their way out of trouble instead of playing to the situation.

Kumble picked two wickets in the afternoon in a space of four overs and then three late in the day inside eight overs to let the world champions know they have a battle on hands.

The skipper started the slide when he fooled Jaques with a googly that beat his defensive bat and undid him with a stumping.

Three overs later, Kumble got rid of Mike Hussey (two) who played the wrong line and was declared leg before wicket.

In between, Zaheer bowled the Australian captain Ricky Ponting (four) with a peach of a delivery.

Australia were 213 for three from 56 overs at tea as Hayden and Michael Clarke appeared to be digging in their heels for a home revival.

R.P. Singh nipped those ambitions in the bud when he had Clarke (20) flaying at an overpitched delivery, wide off stumps, into the hands of VVS Laxman in slips.

Clarke had struggled in his 80-minute stay during which he made 20 from 40 balls and put on 60 runs for the fourth wicket with Hayden.

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