Mitchell Marsh, recalled to the Australian team for the crucial third test against Australia in Melbourne, came into the attack and bowled five overs before the lunch break. He got booed by some sections of the MCG crowd.

Marsh, a polarising figure who is yet to cement his spot for Australia in any format, bowled five tidy overs before the lunch break - but it's clear he has a lot of work to do to win over cricket fans.

Part of the reason for the booing was probably because Marsh, a West Australian, took the place of a Victorian in Peter Handscomb.

Marsh conceded just 11 runs from his five overs, impressing former test opener Ed Cowan.

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"It's been a really great entry back into the series," Cowan told ABC Grandstand. "He hasn't bowled a bad delivery, he's asked a lot of questions of the batsmen.

"It's been good, lively, brisk medium pace."

Neither side was able to seize control in the opening session as India made it to lunch at 57-1.

Earlier the MCG pitch was slammed by former test stars for its lack of bounce - with disgraced former Australian coach Darren Lehmann saying it left him "in shock".

Despite curator Matt Page leaving 10mm of grass on the pitch in a bid to ensure there's no repeat of last year's boring Ashes Boxing Day test, the early signs suggest there's not much pace or bounce in the Melbourne strip for the crucial third test in the series between Australia and India.

Indian batsman Mayank Agarwal is hit on the helmet by Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins - with one of the few deliveries that bounced in the first session of the Melbourne test. Photo / Getty
Indian batsman Mayank Agarwal is hit on the helmet by Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins - with one of the few deliveries that bounced in the first session of the Melbourne test. Photo / Getty

Aussie wicketkeeper Tim Paine was taking balls around his ankles and occasionally they'd bounce before they reached him when Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood opened up.

"When it's a third over of the test match and it's not carrying through ... you just want it to carry through," an angry Glenn McGrath told Macquarie Sports Radio.

"First over you've got two bowlers bowling 140km/h plus and it's not carrying through.

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"This pitch here, it's not overly promising."

Commentating for Channel 7, Ricky Ponting was surprised at the lack of zip in the track on the opening morning.

But given there's some moisture under the surface in anticipation of hot, dry days for the rest of the test, the former Aussie skipper said the wicket will likely harden up and get quicker as the match wears on.

Half an hour into play Mayank Agarwal pushed at a wide delivery from Mitchell Starc and his edge flew centimeters wide of Mitchell Marsh's outstretched hand at gully before there was more drama in the same over.

Starc dug a ball in short of a length and it barely got above ankle height, sliding down the leg side and bumbling along past Paine, who was unable to stop it going for four byes.

"That's unbelievable, really," Ponting said. "Look at the lack of bounce there. Worrying signs that, not just for the teams, but for the game."

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Lehmann shared Ponting's concern, telling Macquarie Sports Radio: "I'm in shock, four byes in the first morning."

The pitch was so slow, spinner Nathan Lyon was brought into the attack in just the eighth over.

It's the earliest a spinner has bowled in a test match at the MCG since ball-by-ball records began.

Less than an hour into the day's play the Aussies at one stage had only one slip in place, reflective of how slow the deck is.

Neither side was able to seize control in the opening session as India made it to lunch at 57-1.

The MCG was put on notice after last year's Ashes snooze-fest on a lifeless deck and there was concern it might be a similar tale in 2018, especially after a couple of dull Sheffield Shield matches.

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Indian captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first, saying despite plenty of grass on the pitch he thought it was dry underneath, which would make it harder to bat on in the third and fourth innings.

Paine said he wasn't sure what he would have done if he'd won the toss but wasn't unhappy to be bowling.