Ponting, Clarke push India on to familiar path

Ponting, Clarke push India on to familiar path

Big two hammer tons on day one

India’s presence on the field was felt only in the first session of a scorching Tuesday, and then it was all about Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Australia.

Australia's Rcky Ponting celebrates his 100 runs in their cricket test match against India, in Adelaide Tuesday. APThe former and current skippers combined for an unbeaten fourth-wicket stand to add 251 runs as the home side ended the first day of the fourth Test here on a formidable 335 for three. Once Clarke called it right, his choice was to bat first, and it seemed a naïve decision once India managed to winkle out Ed Cowan, David Warner and Shaun Marsh before lunch.

However, those remained India’s moments of joy on the day as Clarke, who made his 19th hundred, and Ponting, who scripted his 41st century, raised a monstrous alliance through skill, determination and some small slices of fortune, cashing in on a thoroughly listless effort by the Indian bowlers. They joined when Australia were at an unsteady 84 for three, but the Aussie duo built a massive edifice to wreck the spirit of the Indians.

Their first task was to keep wickets and wrest the initiative back from the Indians. Ponting and Clarke did just that in the post-lunch session, but it wasn’t an obdurate partnership by any stretch of imagination. They ran hard between the wickets and put away the loose balls without any reticence, and as the session progressed it transpired into a trend. India failed to take even one wicket in the post-lunch session as the Australians scored comfortably over three runs an over.

Ponting looked more assured in the early part of the stand, and was decidedly in better touch than he was at Sydney at the beginning of this month when he ended a long dry run with a hundred. There were no early jitters, a common feature of many Ponting innings, and a marvellous straight drive off Umesh Yadav that raced to the fence indicated his rhythm. Then there were a couple of pulls and drives through the off-side that showcased Ponting’s desire for big runs has not diminished. After establishing his hold, the Tasmanian settled into a nice tempo while bringing up his eighth ton against India.

At the other end, Clarke too soon slipped into a smooth gear, and a six off Virender Sehwag off the second ball after tea was the declaration of his confidence and ominous intent. There were a couple of edgy moments against Ishant Sharma, who toiled manfully without much luck, and Zaheer Khan. Another chance came India’s way late in the evening, much after Clarke has gone past the three-figure mark. The New South Welshman edged Ishant, but a diving VVS Laxman spilled the chance at second slip as the ball kept its date with the rope, helping Clarke to move to 137.

Earlier, Ishant had induced another edge from Clarke when he was on 36, but it flew between stumper Wriddhiman Saha, who had a neat day behind the wicket, and Laxman, who was positioned inexplicably at a floating second slip.

Sehwag had begun the day showing some tactical nous, introducing offie R Ashwin in the fourth over of the first session. It was a quite an unexpected move, but brought the desired result.

The Chennai man eked out two consecutive maidens against David Warner to frustrate him, and Zaheer soon trapped him in front. Ashwin gave India some momentum, dismissing a woefully out of form Marsh, who played for non-existent turn. Cowan teamed up with Ponting for the third wicket to raise 53 runs that steadied the ship before Ashwin ended the flowering partnership.

Laxman snaffled Cowan’s uppish drive off Ashwin’s well-flighted delivery on the off-stump as the Indians went for the lunch on a positive note. But after that session, they didn’t manage to take a wicket, and their hurried walk back to the pavilion after the last ball of the day revealed a group of bodies and spirits in tatters.

Score Board

AUSTRALIA (I Innings):
Cowan c Laxman b Ashwin    30
(110m, 63b, 3x4)
Warner lbw Zaheer    8
(28m, 23b)
Marsh b Ashwin    3
(11m, 12b)
Ponting (batting)    137
(329m, 254b, 13x4)
Clarke (batting)    140
(258m, 188b, 14x4, 1x6)
Extras (LB-11, W-6)    17
Total (for 3 wkts, 90 overs)     335
Fall of wickets: 1-26 (Warner), 2-31 (Marsh), 3-84 (Cowan).
Bowling: Zaheer 18-2-52-1 (w-1), Umesh 12-0-87-0 (w-5), Ashwin 26-4-81-2, Ishant 20-5-52-0, Sehwag 13-0-49-0, Kohli 1-0-3-0.

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