Ponting dominates high-scoring day
Close Australia 400 for 5 (Ponting 176*, Katich 75, Langer 58) v India
Ponting was Australia's hero on the first day at Adelaide
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A scintillating unbeaten 176 by Ricky Ponting was the outstanding performance of the day as Australia made full use of winning the toss at the Adelaide Oval. At close of play on the opening day, they had raced to 400 for 5 - the highest total in a day at this venue, beating Australia's 387 on the second day against West Indies in 1968-69 - with useful contributions from Justin Langer (58) and Simon Katich (75).
Apart from Matthew Hayden, all the Australian batsmen got starts, but Ponting capitalised on it, racing to his hundred off just 117 balls. He slowed down noticeably after reaching 150, despite which Australia finished the day with a run-rate of nearly four-and-a-half an over. All the Indian bowlers toiled - rather unsuccessfully - to beat the daunting combination of a flat pitch, a fast outfield with short square boundaries, and an awesome opposition batting line-up.
Coming in at the fall of an early wicket, Ponting started off with an all-run four down the ground, before peppering the square boundaries on the off side with some sumptuous drives off either foot. He had a couple of reprieves early in his innings: on 12, a close lbw shout off Ajit Agarkar was turned down, while Virender Sehwag dropped a head-high chance at third slip off Irfan Pathan when Ponting had added just six. Once past those early jitters, though, Ponting didn't give the Indians much respite.
The tone for the day was set early when both the Australian openers drove through the line of the ball, trusting the even bounce and the lack of movement off the pitch. Sourav Ganguly packed the off side, and his bowlers largely stuck to an off-stump line, but the batsmen still threaded the gaps - in fact, every single one of the 16 fours Ponting struck in his first 100 runs were on the off side. Ganguly didn't help the Indian cause by keeping the third-man region vacant for most of the day.
These were ideal conditions for Hayden's plonk-the-front-foot-and-drive-through-the-line style of batting, but Pathan - making his debut after Zaheer Khan missed out due to a strained hamstring - nailed him with one in the corridor which shaped away and kissed the edge of the bat (22 for 1).
The dream start for Pathan and India soon went sour as Ponting and Langer went about their merry ways, cashing in on all the bad balls and sometimes putting away the good ones as well. Anil Kumble was soon pressed into service, but that only inspired Langer to go into overdrive - in one over he smote Kumble for two sixes and two fours. Kumble struck back in his next over, though, when Langer miscued a sweep to Sehwag at midwicket (135 for 2).
That dismissal, which came at the stroke of lunch, was some respite for the Indians, but it only meant that one effective run-scorer was replaced by another, more graceful one. Martyn was in fantastic touch from ball one, stroking some gorgeous drives through the covers off Agarkar and Pathan, who, after an impressive first spell, fell away, struggling to find the movement he had obtained with the new ball. A big score was there for the taking, when Martyn (30) threw it away, steering a wide one from Nehra - the first ball of a new spell - to VVS Laxman at second slip (200 for 3).
Steve Waugh smote a few through the off side in his 30, but was sorted out by a clever piece of bowling by Nehra. Bowling from round the wicket, he dug a few in short, then slipped in a full-length ball on middle. Waugh, weight on the back foot and probably expecting another short one, played all over the ball as it crashed into his stumps (252 for 4).
A feature of this innings was the partnerships that the Australians put together for every wicket, and Simon Katich now joined Ponting to add the biggest one for the day. Katich first dug in, then showed that he could play a few strokes too, the most emphatic of them being a pulled six off Nehra, who came in armed with the second new ball. Galvanised by that shot, Katich raced along, even as Ponting quietened down and seemed to set his sights on his double-century.
The 138-run partnership was finally broken off the penultimate over of the day, when Katich top-edged a pull and was caught spectacularly by Sehwag, diving full length and coming up with the ball in both hands (390 for 5). In walked Adam Gilchrist, and promptly dispatched the second ball he faced to the cover fence, and then pulled Kumble for another boundary before bringing up the 400 with the last ball of the day. In four Tests at the Adelaide Oval, Gilchrist has scored a mere 145 runs at 24.16. Time to set the record straight?