Second Test, Bangalore, day one (close):
Australia 285-5 v India
The crooked finger of fate from umpire Billy Bowden ends Ponting's fine innings
An assured 77 from Ricky Ponting helped Australia to 285-5 on day one of the second Test with India in Bangalore.
Ponting, who chose to bat in overcast conditions, struck 12 fours in his 54th Test fifty before becoming spinner Suresh Raina's first Test victim.
Opener Shane Watson had earlier made 57 and left-hander Marcus North was on 43 not out when bad light ended play.
In their final Test before the Ashes begins on 25 November, Australia need to win to level the two-match series.
VVS Laxman, the hero of India's tense one-wicket victory in the first Test at Mohali, was ruled out by a sore back, allowing Cheteshwar Pujara a Test debut, while giant seamer Peter George replaced the injured Doug Bollinger for Australia.
The tourists were in command at 95-0 at lunch, with Watson taking three boundaries in the 11th over off Zaheer Khan and reaching his 11th Test fifty before the interval.
But in the first over of the afternoon session Simon Katich tried to cut spinner Harbhajan Singh and Rahul Dravid took a neat catch at slip to dismiss the left-hander for 43.
Ponting stylishly drove his second ball to the boundary off Harbhajan but soon lost Watson when Pragyan Ojha got one to spin sharply with some extra bounce and it flicked the glove before being smartly snaffled by wicketkeeper Mahendra Dhoni.
Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke, who hit 151 on the same ground in his debut Test in 2004, made only 14 this time before prodding forward to Harbhajan and getting an edge onto his pad, which was scooped up by Raina diving forward at backward square-leg.
Ponting had some good fortune on 17 when a top-edged pull off Harbhajan was not spotted by Zaheer in the deep and went for four before he could react.
Australia reached tea on 189-3 and both Mike Hussey and Ponting punished short deliveries from Harbhajan to the boundary in the first over after the resumption.
But in the next Hussey reached for a drive wide of off-stump and edged to the right of gully where Virender Sehwag took a fine reflex catch to send him on his way for 34.
India took some key afternoon wickets having failed to strike before lunch
Ponting reached his fifty with a perfectly placed cut shot and with an array of stylish and authoritative strokes the captain looked certain to make a century.
But 15 overs before the close Raina, in only his fourth Test, struck with his second ball as an off-break turned in a fraction and caught Ponting on the front foot, umpire Billy Bowden deciding that the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps.
Ponting's exit brought in Tim Paine to join the inconsistent North, who made a century on his debut against South Africa in February 2009 and has since added three more but also been dismissed for fewer than 20 on 20 occasions.
In what proved to be the final over of the day left-armer Zaheer found some late swing and North was relieved when a flashing drive wide of his body flew through a narrow gap behind square to the boundary.
The left-hander then did well to keep out a fearsome inswinging yorker before the umpires decided to end proceedings for the day, with the match delicately poised.
Watson admitted his team should have made more of the opportunity to bat first and said: "The disappointing thing about today, no doubt, is not one of us was able to go on and get a hundred or a big score because it is a beautiful batting wicket.
"Hopefully we can get a few more partnerships going in the morning. We know how important the lower order is, especially in Indian conditions."
North hit four boundaries and Watson is confident the left-hander can progress to a big total on day two.
"Marcus is looking very good," he said. "He started his innings very well. It's always great to see Marcus in full flight because he's a beautiful batsman to watch when he's going."