Ponting hits brilliant century to lift Australia to 254 for 4

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Bangalore, Oct 9 (UNI) Australian captain Ricky Ponting found his batting touch on Indian soil at the right time, scoring a brilliant 123 that lifted his side to 254 for four, but speedster Zaheer Khan struck a late blow to make the honours even on the opening day of the first Test match for the Border-Gavaskar trophy being played at the M Chinnaswamy stadium here today.

The Australians looked cautious and their usual flamboyance went missing after the belligerent Mathew Hayden returned to the pavilion, edging a Zaheer Khan delivery to M S Dhoni on the third ball of the match.

But Ponting, in the company of Katich (66) steadied the Aussie boat and was dismissed at last by Harbhajan with 30 minutes left for stumps. His brilliant knock and Katich's sheet anchor role took the visitors to safety.

Zaheer, bowling with the second new ball, removed vice-captain Michael Clark (11) to help India make a comeback, after facing the Ponting barrage, and share the honours.

Ponting, who came to the crease at the fall of Hayden, shored up the Aussie innings playing for 329 minutes. His 243 ball essay contained 13 hits to the boundary and by his standards it was a slow century.

He was involved in two fruitful partnerships of 166 and 60 with Katich and 60 runs with Michael Hussy who remained unbeaten on 46.

Zaheer took two wickets for 39 runs while Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan shared the other two wickets that fell. Skipper Kumble playing his last Test in his hometown, went wicketless in his 27 overs.

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