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Wickets tumble as Australia steady the ship

updated 12:58 PM EST, Wed December 28, 2011
The veteran duo of former captain Ricky Ponting (left) and Mike Hussey rescued Australia in Melbourne on Wednesday.
The veteran duo of former captain Ricky Ponting (left) and Mike Hussey rescued Australia in Melbourne on Wednesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey rescue Australia on day three of first Test against India
  • A 115-run partnership between the pair helps Australia reach 179-8 at close of play
  • Australia lead by 230 runs, after India register first-innings total of 282
  • Kumar Sangakkara century puts Sri Lanka in command against South Africa

(CNN) -- Veteran batsmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey both scored half centuries as Australia rallied on day three of a pulsating first Test against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

A 115-run partnership between former captain Ponting, 37, and the 36-year-old Hussey helped the hosts recover from a disastrous start to the second innings which saw Australia slip to 27 runs for the loss of four wickets.

Australia, who had scored 333 in their first innings, took a lead of 51 runs as India collapsed to 282 all out Wednesday.

India, who had been 214-2 before the loss of Sachin Tendulkar shortly before the close of the second day, lost their last eight wickets for just 68 runs.

But when the home side batted again, fast bowler Umesh Yadav, playing in only his third Test, tore into the Australian top order, claiming the wicket of opener David Warner, also making his third appearance at this level, with just 13 runs on the board.

Ed Cowan, who top-scored for Australia in the first innings with 68, fell in the same over, with Yadav once again taking the scalp.

Four overs later and the 24-year-old Yadav was at it again, removing Shaun Marsh for just three runs to leave Australia in a perilous position.

I don't care what people outside the dressing room are saying, if I've got the support inside the dressing room that's all that really matters to me
Ricky Ponting

But Ponting came to Australia's aid with a battling 60, eventually being caught out by Virender Sehwag off the bowling of Zaheer Khan.

Australia captain Michael Clark scored just one run before being bowled by Ishant Sharma, bringing Hussey to the crease.

The partnership of Hussey, 79 not-out at the close of play, and Ponting helped Australia claw their way back into the Test to reach 179-8. In all,15 wickets fell on the third day for just 275 runs.

Ponting said he wanted to carry on at Test level despite calls for him to stand aside for younger players.

"I don't care what people outside the dressing room are saying, if I've got the support inside the dressing room that's all that really matters to me," he said after Wednesday's play.

"There's plenty of motivation out there for me but first and foremost it's for me to be a successful player in a successful team."

Australia's lead of 230 runs with two wickets remaining leaves the match fascinatingly poised ahead of day four Thursday.

In other Test action Wednesday, Kumar Sangakkara scored a battling century to put Sri Lanka into a strong position in the second Test match against South Africa at Kingsmead in Durban.

Sangakkara's 108 saw the tourists reach 256 for seven wickets in their second innings - a commanding overall lead of 426.

He shared stands of 94 with Thilan Samaraweera and 104 with rookie wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal as Sri Lanka frustrated the South Africa attack.

They have two days to close out victory after losing the first Test by a thumping innings and 81 runs.

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