MELBOURNE (AFP) - India's rejection of the decision review system in their Australian series provoked its first controversy Monday as the home side lost late wickets on the opening day of the first Test.

The Australians stumbled from 205 for three with three wickets tumbling in 18 balls to finish the day at 277 for six with Brad Haddin on 21 and Peter Siddle not out 34.

But the first day of the four-Test series before a 70,068 Boxing Day crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was marred by the contentious dismissal of senior batsman Michael Hussey.

Hussey fell for his third Test golden duck in eight innings and was disgusted to be given out after replays appeared to show the delivery from Zaheer Khan had brushed his sleeve and not his bat. Hussey was prevented from referring the umpire's verdict to the video umpire as the Indian cricket board has refused to use the Decision Review System (DRS) in the series over concerns about the accuracy of electronic aids.

It could prove a career-ending dismissal for Hussey, whose future in the Australian team is increasingly under threat amid a run of low scores. "I feel for any batsman who gets out, it's a bit of a gut-wrenching experience, whether it's your first ball or you're 150,' said Ed Cowan, who anchored the Australian innings with a stoic 68 on his debut.

"Of course, I was disappointed for him (Hussey). It was a massive moment in the game, it was a huge momentum (switch). We just had a 100-run partnership, wrestled back momentum and then almost a 50-run partnership and we felt we were half an hour away from nailing them, really grinding them into the dust." Cowan said it was not an issue of the DRS but the vagaries of umpiring decisions. "Today momentum went against us because of it. Two of your top six (batsmen), but that's the game and we'll take the good with the bad," he said.

Indian paceman Umesh Yadav, who took three wickets, refused to be drawn into the controversy. "It's part of the game and I'd rather not comment on it," Yadav said. "Whether it's bad or good decisions, it's part of the game." Australia were in a strong position before paceman Zaheer Khan, playing in his first Test match since July, removed Clarke and Hussey with consecutive deliveries. Cowan went three overs later when he feathered a catch behind off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The left-hander had batted for almost five hours and the best part of 68 overs after skipper Michael Clarke had won the toss.

Replacing chancy opener Phillip Hughes for his first Test match, he protected his wicket with steely patience and a willingness to leave the ball in his 177-ball knock. Clarke looked in good touch before he attempted to cut Zaheer only to play on to his stumps for 31, while Hussey went next ball, adjudged to have got an edge to M.S. Dhoni.

Ricky Ponting scored his 59th Test half-century and 10th against India before he fell to Yadav, finding V.V.S. Laxman at second slip for 62 in the only wicket to fall in the middle session. Yet again the former Australian captain failed to go on to claim his century and it is now 33 innings and almost two years since his last Test hundred.

Ponting put on 113 runs with Cowan for the third wicket to steady the Australian innings after the first two wickets fell on 46. Yadav finished with three for 96. Warner, who scored an unbeaten 123 in this month's Test against New Zealand, clouted a six in his typically breezy 37. He was out when he attempted to hook Yadav only to dolly a catch to Dhoni in the 14th over. Marsh's Test return only lasted six balls before he edged Yadav to Virat Kohli in the gully for a duck. India are bidding to win their first series in Australia in 64 years and hold the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after winning the last two series at home.


E Cowan c Dhoni b Ashwin    68

D Warner c Dhoni b Yadav    37

S Marsh c Kohli b Yadav    0

R Ponting c Laxman b Yadav    62

M Clarke b Zaheer    31

M Hussey c Dhoni b Zaheer    0

B Haddin not out    21

P Siddle not out    34

EXTRAS: (lb21, w2, nb1)    24

TOTAL: (for 6 wkts; 89 overs)    277

FOW: 1-46, 2-46, 3-159, 4-205, 5-205, 6-214

BOWLING: Zaheer Khan 23-5-49-2, Sharma 20-6-40-0, Yadav 20-4-96-3, Ashwin 26-2-71-1

INDIA: Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni (capt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.

Toss: Australia

Umpires: Ian Gould (ENG), Marais Erasmus (RSA)

Third umpire: Paul Reiffel (AUS)

Match referee: Madugalle (SRI)