Zaheer strikes after Watson's flying start

Australia 224-5 India
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The Independent Online

He started out as a makeshift opener but Shane Watson might just have convinced the doubters he is the real thing after hitting an unbeaten century yesterday for Australia in the first Test against India.

The Indian pace bowler Zaheer Khan struck in the final session to halt the visitors' progress on what proved to be a see-saw opening day in Mohali.

Watson, who was originally called upon to open the batting for Australia when Phil Hughes failed on the Ashes tour of England last summer, took advantage of poor Indian catching to reach 101 not out, having starred in a 141-run second-wicket stand with Ricky Ponting who made 71 as Australia reached 224 for 5.

Zaheer, who drew first blood in the morning, trapping Simon Katich (6), returned in the post-tea session to remove Mike Hussey (17) and Marcus North (0) in successive overs, reversing some of Australia's dominance earlier in the day. Tim Paine was with Watson at stumps on one not out.

"I knew the first few hours would be crucial," Watson said after the day's play. "For me, it was easier to score off the new ball than the reverse-swinging or the turning one. Hopefully I can continue ."

On a placid track offering no real bounce, Watson and Ponting's partnership dominated the morning session. Both scored freely even after lunch until Suresh Raina ran out Ponting with a direct throw from mid-wicket. The dismissal was followed by an apparent verbal clash between Zaheer and the departing Ponting. The Australian captain, who hit 10 boundaries, was soon joined in the pavilion by Michael Clarke, who was caught by Rahul Dravid for 14 off the bowling of spinner Harbhajan Singh shortly before tea.

Watson, however, reached his second Test century courtesy of some solid hitting and India's poor fielding.