Ponting keeps spin at bay to give Australia edge

Australia 285-5 v India
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The Independent Online

Ricky Ponting shrugged off his indifferent form in India with a stubborn innings of 77 to ensure that Australia just about had the better of the opening day of the Second Test against India.

The tourists, 1-0 down in the two-match series after narrowly losing the First Test in Mohali, had started steadily and ended the first session on 95 without loss. But three wicketsfell before tea and two after it, including that of the Australian captain, as the home side came back into a match where spin played an important part from early on.

Australia had reached tea on 189 for 3 but added just nine more runs before Mike Hussey fell for 34. Ponting was then trapped lbw by the occasional off-spin of Suresh Raina to make it 256 for 5 and India looked to have taken the initiative. But Marcus North (43 not out) and Tim Paine steered the tourists to the close on 285 without further loss.

Ponting won the toss and opted to bat, a decision that was justified as the Australian openers safely negotiated the morning session, Shane Watson scoring a brisk half-century.

The left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan found Simon Katich's edge with the fourth ball of the day, though it did not carry. Watson began more positively, thrashing his second and third balls to the boundary before surviving a loud lbw shout off Zaheer.

India turned to spin as early as the eighth over with the slow left-armer Pragyan Ojha. There was gentle turn but Australia settled well, Watson collecting 13 off Zaheer's sixth over. He continued to find the boundary, striking nine fours in the first session.

After lunch three wickets fell to spin on a helpful first-day pitch for the slow men. It took Harbhajan Singh just five balls of the afternoon session to get Katich for 43, the left-hander slashing to Rahul Dravid at slip.

Watson also failed to capitalise on his impressive start and was next man to fall when a combination of bat and glove diverted an Ojha delivery to India's captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, behind the stumps.

Michael Clarke then gave Raina a bat-pad catch at short leg to give Harbhajan his second scalp and leave Australia wobbling on 132 for 3. But Ponting and Hussey consolidated, adding 66 for the fourth wicket before Zaheer had Hussey caught by Virender Sehwag in the gully.

Ponting showed some typically dominant strokeplay interspersed with the odd miscalculation against the spinners, finally falling to the part-time off-breaks of Raina – his first Test wicket – after a fifth-wicket stand of 58 with North. Ponting's 77 came off 147 balls with 12 fours.