Back to fitness and in form: Zaheer Khan celebrates with teammates after taking wicket of Ponting [GALLO/GETTY] 

Bowlers dictated the fortunes of the first Test between Australia and India on Wednesday as 15 wickets fell for 274 runs on the third day, leaving the match evenly poised.

Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey defied age and their critics to score half centuries in a 115-run partnership after a top-order collapse as Australia struggled to 179-8 at stumps with a 230-run lead.

India paceman Umesh Yadav (4-49) had taken three quick wickets in the afternoon session to leave Australia reeling at 27-4 before the experienced pair came together to halt the slide.

"This is the best bowling attack I've played with,'' Virender Sehwag said.

"This is the best bowling attack I've played with"

Virender Sehwag

Australia's batting struggle mirrored that of India in the morning session as recalled Australia paceman Ben Hilfenhaus (5-75) completed his first Test five-wicket to help dismiss the tourists for 282. India lost their last eight wickets for 68 runs.

Hussey will resume the fourth day on 79 with James Pattinson on 3.

"Tomorrow morning's going to be really crucial for us now,'' Ponting said.

"We know James Pattinson's got some really solid promise with the bat. He's going to have to show that for us tomorrow morning and we need Mike Hussey to go on and get a big score and continue to keep pushing the game forward.

"We're 230 ahead now, which is a reasonable total for India to have to chase, but ideally we'd like to make a few more than that.''

Golden oldies

The 36-year-old Hussey smashed seven boundaries in a defiant, career-saving knock. He and 37-year-old Ponting have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent weeks with calls for their retirement.

Hussey, out for a duck in the first innings after a dubious umpiring decision, saw his luck change on Wednesday when given the benefit of the doubt in an lbw appeal and, then was dropped by Rahul Dravid in the slips while on 69.

Former captain Ponting, who scored 62 in the first innings in a 113-run partnership with debutant opener Ed Cowan, made a classy 60 before sending a thick edge to Sehwag in the gully attempting to drive a Zaheer Khan (2-32) ball.

Brad Haddin was out next over with a rash shot to Khan snapped up by V.V.S. Laxman and Peter Siddle made 4 before becoming Yadav's fourth wicket,caught behind.

      Australia will be hoping Hussey can hit more runs when play resumes [GALLO/GETTY] 

Lyon was out lbw to fellow-spin bowler Ashwin (1-44), leaving the prospect of Hussey running out of partners.

Earlier, opener David Warner was the first wicket to fall. After making a circumspect start, he tried a more familiar aggressive stroke to a Yadav ball but only succeeded in edging it onto his stumps.

Yadav then claimed Australia's first innings top-scorer Cowan lbw for 8 when the he padded up to an inswinger headed for off stump.

Shaun Marsh scored just 3 - after a first-innings duck - before becoming Yadav's third victim, playing a fuller ball onto the wicket.

Australia were four wickets down after just 12 overs following the dismissal of captain Michael Clarke (1), who played forward to defend an Ishant Sharma delivery, only to nick it through to his stumps.

"It was a good day for India,'' Sehwag said.

"The match is evenly balanced and any team can win who will work hard tomorrow."

Source: AP