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Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 12:25 UK

Gritty Ponting ton holds up India

FIRST TEST, Bangalore (day one, close):
India v Australia 254-4

Dates: 9-13 October Start time: 0500 BST each day
Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website

By Mark Mitchener

Ricky Ponting raises his arms after reaching his century
Ponting's century was easily his highest Test score in India

Australia captain Ricky Ponting hit 123 - his first century in India - to help them reach 254-4 on the opening day of the first Test in Bangalore.

The tourists made the worst possible start when Matthew Hayden was adjudged caught behind off Zaheer Khan for a duck in the first over.

But Ponting and Simon Katich (66) added a patient second-wicket stand of 166.

Ponting was eventually lbw to Harbhajan Singh and Michael Clarke (11) fell to Zaheer off the last ball of the day.

It was a determined effort from Ponting, who belied his previous Test average in India of just under 13 and gave his side an early advantage in this much-anticipated series.

"I'm as pleased with that innings as I probably have been with any innings I've ever played," Ponting said.

"I'd played eight tests here before with a highest score of 60, so I had some work to do. I had a point to prove to a few people as well.

"I've been working hard on getting a game plan and technique in place over the last couple of weeks to give myself the best chance to have success."

Zaheer's two wickets bookended the day, and were reward for some wholehearted effort on a pitch which proved good for batting.

Australia made three changes from their last Test against West Indies in June.

The fit-again Hayden replaced Phil Jaques at the top of the order and Shane Watson filled the all-rounder's role after Andrew Symonds was left out of the squad for disciplinary reasons.

With injuries and retirements having deprived the tourists of several spinning options, leg-spinning all-rounder Cameron White was handed his first Test cap - having been preferred to off-spinner Jason Kejza after joining the squad late as a replacement for injured Bryce McGain.

Zaheer and Ishant Sharma found some movement and bounce with the new ball, and the crowd were on their feet when the early wicket came.

Hayden's day was ended off the third ball of the match as the left-hander appeared to feather the thinnest of edges through to keeper Mahendra Dhoni - who reclaimed his place in the side after opting out of the recent Tests against Sri Lanka.

Umpire Asad Rauf eventually raised his finger, although replays indicated that the ball just passed Hayden's outside edge as his bat hit his front pad.

Ponting was lucky to survive a hostile spell from Sharma, getting the benefit of the doubt when he offered no stroke and was struck on the pad.

But the Australia captain also showed his class with an exquisitely-timed square drive for four off Sharma - and after initially threatening with the new ball, all India's bowlers proved less effective as the day wore on.

Spirits were raised around the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium when Ponting jabbed a quick single to Virender Sehwag, who threw down the stumps at the striker's end but Katich's headlong dive for the crease ensured his survival.

Ponting and Katich found their patience tested against the two spinners, but dug in well to reach 75-1 by lunch.

The seam movement offered by the pitch earlier in the day was long gone by the time Ponting reached fifty with a cover-driven four off Zaheer.

Katich looked happy to play the supporting role to his captain, looking good off his legs, but he too survived a strong lbw appeal from captain Anil Kumble when he had made 34.

Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble
Zaheer Khan (left) struck for India with the third ball of the match
After Katich turned Harbhajan to square leg for a single to bring up three figures for the tourists, Ponting cut loose for the first time in the 40th over with a heave to the cow-corner boundary for four.

Harbhajan soon served up a generous half-volley which Katich comfortably guided to the boundary to reach his own fifty.

Having bowled a tidy eight-over spell with the new ball, Sharma was surprisingly not called upon again until mid-afternoon, by which time the Australian pair were well set.

But with tea looming, it was Sharma who made the breakthrough as he induced an edge from Katich on 66 and Dhoni eagerly grabbed his second catch of the day.

The interval delayed Ponting's hundred - but not by long as he steered Kumble past point and punched the air in celebration at reaching his 36th Test century.

Mike Hussey, having taken over Katich's supporting role, had a let-off when a faint edge to Kumble hit Dhoni's thumb and bounced out of his gloves and he and Ponting were soon plundering plenty of quick singles to take advantage of India's veteran fielders.

Zaheer tried different angles of attack against Ponting - bowling over the wicket, around the wicket and with Dhoni standing up to the stumps, and belatedly found some movement with the old ball.

The Aussie skipper had another stroke of luck when umpire Rudi Koertzen turned down a caught-and-bowled appeal from Kumble, the South African official apparently judging it to be a bump ball.

And by the 78th over, when Kumble turned to Sehwag's occasional off-spin as his fifth bowler, it was looking all too easy for Ponting and Hussey.

But the very next over, with 226 on the board, Ponting tried to sweep Harbhajan, was struck low on the front pad and Rauf raised his finger once more.

Buoyed by this dismissal, Kumble delayed taking the second new ball, and it was Hussey's turn to be the senior partner as he and Michael Clarke looked comfortable against the spinners.

However, Kumble eventually took the new ball three overs before the close - and with Hussey undefeated on 46, Clarke was trapped in front for 11 by Zaheer in the final over.

India are out for revenge after losing the four-Test series 2-1 when the sides met in Australia at the beginning of the year.

see also
Ind-Aus: 1st Test day one photos
09 Oct 08 |  Cricket
Australia target India veterans
08 Oct 08 |  Cricket
Aussies hope for Clarke recovery
07 Oct 08 |  Cricket
White to join Aussie Test squad
04 Oct 08 |  Cricket
Aussie spinner out of India tour
03 Oct 08 |  Cricket
India name Ganguly in Test squad
01 Oct 08 |  Cricket
Tendulkar boost for Aussie Tests
26 Sep 08 |  Cricket
Symonds vows to improve behaviour
16 Sep 08 |  Australia
Australia gamble on spin rookies
12 Sep 08 |  Cricket
Australia in India 2008
09 Apr 08 |  Cricket

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