The first test between Australia and India began in controversial fashion yesterday, the home side fuming over two dubious dismissals.
Veteran Mike Hussey (0) and debutant opener Ed Cowan (68) both trudged off the Melbourne Cricket Ground shaking their heads after being given out caught behind despite not appearing to hit the ball and having no avenue of appeal.
After winning the toss in overcast conditions, Australia showed familiar weaknesses in their top six before finishing 6-277 in front of a record crowd of 70,068.
The disciplined duo of Brad Haddin (21 not out) and tailender Peter Siddle (34 not out) shared a 63-run stand for the seventh wicket to aid Australia's cause.
Ex-skipper Ricky Ponting played a determined knock of 62 in a third-wicket partnership of 113 with Cowan, who showed great powers of concentration in his five-hour innings.
The 37-year-old Ponting was twice hit on the gloves by Ishant Sharma before fending a short ball to second slip off the bowling of Umesh Yadav (3-96) with the score on 159.
Australia had reached 2-68 at lunch for the loss of David Warner (37) and Shaun Marsh (0), who both fell to Yadav.
They were comfortably placed after tea at 3-205 before Zaheer Khan (2-49) struck twice in two balls in the 65th over, removing Michael Clarke who played on to his stumps for 31 and Hussey. Hussey showed the pressure of having his spot in the side under scrutiny as he let fly with a series of outbursts on his way off the field after South African umpire Marais Erasmus gave him out caught behind.
Cowan was sixth man out at 214 as Australia lost 3-9. His dismissal, caught behind off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, was also dubious according to television replays.
Both decisions highlighted the problems caused by the Indian board's refusal to use the technology of the Decision Review System (DRS) during this four-test series.
India also appeared to be victims of the lack of the DRS when an lbw appeal by Zaheer was turned down by Erasmus with Haddin on 19.
Replays showed Haddin would have been very nervous had the decision been subject to video review.
It took just a few balls of Cowan's test career for Australia's newest opener to demonstrate a trait his predecessor Phil Hughes could have used more of - patience.
Hughes' axing came after he frequently slashed at wide deliveries, delivering regular catches to the slips and a string of low scores.
By contrast, Tasmania's Cowan was in no hurry to play at anything wide or, in fact, to score at all early in his innings.
The 29-year-old left-hander did not lay bat on ball until the final delivery of Zaheer Khan's opening over.
A push past midwicket in the following over and a later leg glance for another single were Cowan's only scoring shots in the opening 50 minutes.
Cowan's watchful approach and classical technique contrasted nicely with the swashbuckling style of opening partner Warner.
By the time Warner fell for 37, after an opening stand of 46, Cowan was just seven.
Cowan's patience paid off as he played some fine strokes to lift the scoring rate when the ball softened and the skies cleared in the second session.
His 68 was the highest score by an opener in their debut test innings for Australia since Wayne Phillips' 159 against Pakistan in Perth in 1983.
- AAPBy Greg Buckle