Ponting, Katich drive Australia to a healthy 166 for two at tea

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Bangalore, Oct 9 (UNI) Skipper Ricky Ponting finally came out of his lean patch against India by scoring a brilliant unbeaten 94, and in the company of Simon Katich (66) took Australia to a healthy 166 for two at tea on the opening day of the first Test match being played at the M Chinnaswamy stadium here today.

After losing prolific opener Mathew Hayden to the third ball of the match, Australia recovered smartly under Ponting's authoritative knock while Katich, who preferred to play a patient game, added 166 runs for the second wicket in 325 balls to give no chance to the Indians to make early inroads.

This was the highest second wicket partnership by any visiting team in Bangalore. The previous best was 161 between now Indian coach and former South African opener Gary Kristen and Nicky Boje.

This was Ponting's highest score against India in India. He overhauled his previous best of 60 scored at Chennai in 1998. If he manages to complete the century, he would become the highest century maker for Australia as captain with 16 centuries. Allen Border and Stephen Waugh had hit 15 centuries each as captains of Australia.

Ponting and Katich made a sedate start after Mathew Hayden had left at the team's score of zero. They helped their team to 75 for one in 27 overs at lunch and thereafter played with high degree of confidence. The Aussie skipper, who has struck 12 boundaries so far, was more aggressive of the two and handled Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh - his two tormenters during the recent times, with confidence.

He was severe on Harbhajan, striking some attractive cover drives and dealt with Ishant whenever he erred in line.

The two batsmen posted 150 of the Austalian innings in 50th over when Ponting struck Harbhajan for two boundaries and started racing towards the century but was subdued at the fall of Katich.

However, the lanky 19-year-old pacer provided the breakthrough for India when he sent back Katich, who after playing a patient but confident game, lost control and edged a widish delivery into Dhoni's gloves. In his innings spanning 229 minutes, Katich faced 149 balls and struck seven fours.

In the first session, Ponting won the toss and had no hesitation in opting to bat first. But Zaheer, who opened the attack for India, rattled the Australian openers with accuracy and some movement off the seam and scalped Hayden. The burly left-hander played awkwardly at a well pitched delivery just outside the off stump and offered an easy catch to Dhoni behind the wickets.

Ponting, who joined Katich, played with utmost caution as the first boundary came in the sixth over. After negotiating Zaheer, who was the pick of the Indian bowlers, he punished an errant Ishant Sharma. Growing in confidence, he hooked the lanky Delhi pacer and then raised the 50 partnership for the second wicket in 89 minutes in 107 balls.

The two have so far added 75 runs in 159 balls. Katich, a shaky starter, however settled down well and played the Indian bowlers rather easily with the wicket not giving much assistance to the bowlers.

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