|Ground:||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide|
|Player:||R Ashwin, MJ Clarke, RT Ponting|
|Event:||India in Australia 2011/12|
DateLine: 24th January 2012
The three early incisions that India's strike force made into the Australia innings would have given them great heart after the drubbing from the oppositions' opening batsmen in the previous Test. But those were the only wickets they were allowed for the rest of the first day's play as Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, in a massive unbroken fourth wicket stand of 251, have put their side in a commanding position. At stumps Australia were 335 for three with Ponting unbeaten on 137, his highest score of the series and Clarke 140 not out.
While Australia are comfortably placed so early in the fourth Test, they will do well to remember on India's tour here on 2003/04, they had amassed 556 in the first innings only for India to win the Test by four wickets. On that occasion too, Ponting was among the runs with scores of 242 and 0 while for India Rahul Dravid went one better with 223 and 72 not out. Memories fade at times but Australia will no doubt have that one fresh in mind.
"I thought I played better today than I played at Sydney, (it was) a better wicket to bat on today, there wasn't much in it for any of the Indian bowlers, there was no sideways movement for the quickies, there was not a lot of spin. There was a bit of reverse swing in the middle of the day but it's been a really good day for us but we've got to make sure we win the first hour tomorrow and make sure this first innings is a big one," said Ponting. The fall of wickets began from the seventh over when David Warner was trapped on the crease by Zaheer Khan. The hero of the third Test had 8 from 23 balls, an unusually restrained start for him. Five runs later Australia were 31 for two with Shaun Marsh playing the wrong line to off spinner Ravi Ashwin and being bowled between bat and pad for 3. With scores of 0 and 3 in the first Test, 0 in the second and 11 in the third, he was fortunate not to have been dropped but after his latest showing he is likely to make way.
Ed Cowan's 30 helped Australia's total to 84 before India struck for the third wicket with Cowan's drive being held low at cover. Ashwin, back in the side after missing the last Test, was one of two changes the other being the wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha as a replacement for the suspended India captain MS Dhoni. The only change for Australia is spinner Nathan Lyon for pace bowler Mitchell Starc with the nature of the pitch not justifying a four-pronged pace attack as at Perth.
The recovery for Australia came with Ponting and Clarke taking control as they did in the second Test when Australia were reduced to 37 for three. The second session was dominated by the captain and the former captain as they added 116 runs at almost a run-a-minute taking their side to tea on 214 for three with Ponting reaching his 61st Test half century followed by Clarke's 22nd. The final session of play went much the same way as the second with India’s bowlers lacking penetration while Australia piled on the runs.
Ponting took his score into the eighties and simultaneously reached 13,000 Test runs, only the third player to do so after Sachin Tendulkar and Dravid. It is likely that the Australian may well go past Dravid who at 39 may not have long to go at the highest level of the game while Ponting at 37 seems rejuvenated with two centuries in the series from five innings and a total of 400 runs so far. Both batsmen gave a wonderful exhibition of fluent strokes, Ponting drove with perfect timing and Clarke was wristy and used his feet well to the spinners. He took three fours in one over from Ashwin, two of which were lovely square cuts followed by a straight drive.
Both innings were without blemish until the second new ball was taken for the 86th over. It was a difficult chance for a catch that Clarke gave on 133 with Ishant Sharma finding the outside edge of the bat. But VVS Laxman, at full stretch at slip, only managed to get his finger tips to the ball which sped to the boundary. When play ended for the day four overs later, Ponting had been at the crease for five and a half hours, facing 254 balls while Clarke, considerably faster with the scoring had faced 188 balls in four and a quarter. Ashwin, who finished with two for 81, said: "There wasn't much spin in the wicket, I don't know much about this wicket whether it's going to spin or not but I think it was really good batting by Ponting and Clarke, they really took the game away from us in the second session." Asked about his early wickets, he said: "I was prepared for any challenge being thrown at me and I was quite ready for it. In the last game we didn't have much ammunition to throw at David Warner when he was going after us, so when I was told I was going to come into the attack I had my plans ready and really executed it properly."
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2012 Andy Jalil)