Bangalore, Oct 9: Ricky Ponting erased 12 years of doubt over his record in India by striking a defiant century that gave Australia a marginal edge on the opening day in Bangalore. However, a late pair of wickets – Ponting departed for 123 and Zaheer Khan removed Michael Clarke in the final over – brought India back into the contest on what had until then been a frustrating day for the hosts. At the close Australia had reached 254 for 4 with Michael Hussey unbeaten on 46.
Zaheer's final strike – he trapped Clarke plumb lbw for 11 – gave India's fans cause to cheer on the first day of Test cricket in the country since the frenetic and colourful IPL. The contrast between the game's longest and shortest formats was stark as Australia's batsmen spent most of the day grinding down the India bowlers.
The man most responsible for the tough contest was Ponting, who in the lead-up declared that it was up to him to set the batting standard for Australia despite his disappointing average of 12.28 in his eight previous Tests in India. Australia's two most unflappable batsmen, Simon Katich and Michael Hussey, gave Ponting exactly the support he needed as he began to master his long-time tormentor Harbhajan Singh and his newer nemesis Ishant Sharma.
The two men bowled admirably and created opportunities but the pitch offered them little assistance. When Harbhajan finally picked up Ponting, lbw attempting to sweep a ball that might have missed leg stump, it came as a major relief to India, who had seen a few doses of luck go the other way throughout the day.
Katich and Hussey both prodded within centimetres of short leg against the spinners. Hussey got a thick outside edge off Kumble that Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not get his gloves to in time. Ponting survived a couple of tight lbw calls early and, after he had reached triple figures, was reprieved when replays suggested he was caught and bowled by Kumble off a delivery that was adjudged to be a bump ball.