Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke both hit centuries and combined for 251 runs to drive Australia to 335 for three as India wilted in the Adelaide sun on the opening day of the fourth Test yesterday.
A rejuvenated Ponting became just the third cricketer to score 13,000 Test runs as he reached 137 not out, while Clarke, his successor as Australia captain, notched up his fourth century in eight Tests with an unbeaten 140.
India’s hopes of salvaging a modicum of pride after losing the series with emphatic defeats in the first three Tests looked bright when they removed Australia’s top order before lunch, but melted in 37oC heat in the afternoon.
Ponting’s 41st Test century was far more fluent than the 40th, which he scored to end a two-year drought in the second Test in Sydney earlier this month.
The 37-year-old, who scored his 13,000th Test run with a swept single to deep square-leg, brought up his ton in 164 balls with his 11th four.
“I felt I played better today than I did in Sydney, it was probably a better wicket to bat on today, there wasn’t much in it for any of the Indian bowlers,” Ponting told reporters. “It’s been a really good day for us and we have to make sure we win the first hour tomorrow, and make sure this first innings is a big one.”
Clarke, who won the toss and elected to bat on a good batting track, shared a record partnership of 288 with Ponting in Sydney when he hit a brilliant 329 not out.
After the pair had again rescued Australia’s innings from 84-3 to stand at 214 at tea, Clarke made a statement two balls into the final session by marching down the pitch to smash a huge six off part-time spinner Virender Sehwag.
The 30-year-old reached his century, his 19th in Tests, with a less emphatic stroke and the ball trickled to the boundary at fourth-man for his 14th four.
Sehwag had made a promising start as stand-in skipper for the banned Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the morning, keeping Australia on the back foot and bucking convention by introducing recalled spinner Ravi Ashwin in the fourth over.
However, it was the pace bowling of Zaheer Khan at the other end that forced the breakthrough when his in-swinger trapped left-hander David Warner leg before wicket for 8 with just 26 runs showing on the picturesque ground’s famous old scoreboard.
Shaun Marsh had made 14 in four innings in the series and his poor form continued when he misjudged the flight of an Ashwin delivery, which went between bat and pad, took the bails off and sent him scurrying back to the pavilion for 3.
Ashwin struck again 10 minutes before lunch to remove Ed Cowan for 30, tempting the opener into a miscued cover drive that V.V.S. Laxman intercepted with a fine low catch at short-cover to leave Australia struggling.
India took the new ball five overs before the end of the day and Ishant Sharma almost removed Clarke, but Laxman was unable to hold a difficult catch.
“I think it was really good batting by Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, they really took the game away from us in the second session,” Ashwin told reporters.
Dhoni was banned for one match after India failed to keep to an acceptable over rate in the third Test earlier this month.