Ponting puts Australia in charge

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The Independent Online

A century from captain Ricky Ponting, his first in India, helped Australia assume command on the first day of the first Test in Bangalore.

Ponting, adjudged leg before to Harbhajan Singh late in the day, hit 123 as Australia, who had chosen to bat first after winning a good toss, closed the day on 254 for four.



Michael Hussey four runs short of a half-century when stumps were drawn.



Zaheer Khan, who took the wicket of Matthew Hayden early, struck again with the second new ball to remove Michael Clarke (11), while Indian skipper Anil Kumble was decidedly unlucky not to get among the wickets.



Australia were pegged back when opener Hayden was dismissed for a duck off the third delivery of the day from Zaheer, when he was given out caught behind by umpire Asad Rauf after some consideration.



The Queenslander initially refused to walk and replays suggested he had cause to feel aggrieved as he appeared to hit his pad rather than the ball.



Ponting then walked in and held sway, although runs initially came at a crawl. The Australian skipper was considerably troubled early on by the pace and swing Ishant Sharma generated, the bowler three times presenting a case for leg before.



He was turned down on all three occasions by umpire Rudi Koertzen.



But Ponting soon had the measure of the Indian bowling and in alliance with the unobtrusive Katich, put on 166 for the second wicket.



Katich, in typically understated style, had seen off the shine from the new ball and had looked set for a well-deserved century when he uncharacteristically prodded loosely at a delivery from Sharma.



Dhoni again pouched an easy catch and Katich kicked the dust in disgust as he walked off for 66.



Ponting marched on to reach his century, his 16th since being elevated to captain and 36th overall.



Ponting's driving through the off-side was impeccable and he was clinical off his pads when the ball was pitched in that area.



He had added 60 for the third wicket with Hussey before he was adjudged leg before while attempting to sweep Harbhajan.



Replays, however, suggested the bowler was lucky with his appeal.



Ironically, it was only the second time Ponting, who had scored the bulk of his runs in front of square, attempted the sweep shot.



Indian skipper Kumble, however, believed he had had his opposite number in the Australia camp much earlier on.



Ponting was batting on 111 when Kumble appealed for a return catch.



Koertzen dismissed the appeal believing the ball had pitched before Kumble had taken the catch.



Koertzen enforced his decision after a short conference with Rauf, but television replays suggested Ponting was lucky on that occasion.



Clarke, who struck a double century at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Test debut four years ago, immediately found his stride as he hit Kumble for consecutive boundaries - the first past square leg and the other through the covers.



But the middle-order batsman was dismissed for just 11 when he was caught plumb in front by Zaheer on the second delivery of the final over.



Kumble had wheeled away for 27 overs without success, giving away 84 runs in the process, while Harbhajan's 25 overs came at the cost of 71 runs.



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