Melbourne: Australia are hopeful that their best batsman from the first innings, Ed Cowan, will be fit on the third day in Melbourne after he spent much of the second day in the rooms receiving treatment for a sore back. The debutant Cowan, who made 68 on Boxing Day, was on and off the field on Tuesday. His place was taken by the substitute Daniel Christian while the physio Alex Kountouris worked on Cowan.
Cowan batted for nearly three hours in his first Test innings but that wasn't the cause of his problem, according to Brad Haddin, the vice-captain. Haddin said Cowan had been a little over-enthusiastic in his warm-ups on the second morning.
"Ed got a bit excited in the warm-up in his first Test, he was diving around too much," Haddin said. "He twinged his back. Alex worked on him through the day and he came back all right."
That Cowan did return to the field during the day was encouraging for Australia, who conceded the advantage to India on a sunny afternoon that offered little assistance for the fast bowlers, after Australia pushed their way to 333 in the morning. India closed the afternoon at 3 for 214, with Rahul Dravid well set, and they could see the potential for a big first-innings lead.
"If the sun is going to belt down like this and the wicket eases more and more, I think we'll have to look at batting out as much time as possible and trying to get as much ahead in the game as possible," the India offspinner R Ashwin said. "That is very important. I think it's all about the first-innings lead, or the first-innings situation that both teams find themselves in."
Haddin said the focus for the Australians on the third morning would be to build on the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar, which was collected by Peter Siddle in the final over of the day. That was a major fillip for Australia, who spent much of the afternoon working hard for no reward, although VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni still loom large.
"I think it's important tomorrow we shut that scoreboard down a bit," Haddin said. "If we can do that we'll create chances and give ourselves the best opportunity to get into that middle order. I think we're about 15 overs to the new ball but if we can create some opportunities, building pressure with a few dots and putting some overs together, I think we can get into that middle order.
"At the moment I think India might be a little bit in front of us in the game. But it's evenly poised tomorrow if we start the first session well."
Haddin said he was especially impressed with the way Siddle responded after bowling Dravid off a no-ball, the decision only confirmed when the umpire Marais Erasmus asked for the third umpire to check the footage. Siddle did not let the incident faze him, and he hit the 150kph mark in the last over of the day.
"It felt like he did come through 5ks quicker after that, which was good," Haddin said. "I thought he showed a bit of character coming back after what happened, to get Tendulkar late in the day. He looked pretty good today, so that was a good effort to get him."