Ponting and Clarke lead by example
Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke compiled unbeaten centuries as Australia enjoyed yet another day of dominance over a beleaguered India outfit in the fourth and final Test in Adelaide.
The efforts of Australia’s past and present captains, who shared an unbroken stand of 251, ensured the hosts, already 3-0 up in the series, reached stumps on 335 for three after Clarke had chosen to bat first on a predictably true surface.
Australia’s current skipper ended the day unbeaten on 140 from 188 balls, having been dropped by a diving VVS Laxman shortly before the close, while Ponting became only the third player to pass 13,000 Test runs en route to 137 not out, his 41st three-figure score in the premier form of the game.
India, led by Virender Sehwag in the absence of the suspended Mahendra Singh Dhoni, enjoyed success in the morning session, Ravichandran Ashwin following up Zaheer Khan’s dismissal of David Warner with the wickets of Ed Cowan and Shaun Marsh.
Yet it was not long before they were once again on the back foot. Paceman Umesh Yadav took the bulk of the punishment as he returned figures of 0-87 from 12 erratic overs.
Yadav was given just a solitary over with the new ball this morning as stand-in captain Sehwag opted to introduce Ashwin within the first 15 minutes of play.
The off-spinner began with back-to-back maidens against Warner, who was then lbw to Zaheer, having been trapped on the crease by one that nipped back.
Marsh, out of form since returning from a back injury, saw his poor run of scores continue as he missed a straight ball from Ashwin that went on to clip off stump.
Australia looked set to make it through to lunch without further loss, only for Cowan, on 30, to drive loosely to short cover, where the 37-year-old Laxman demonstrated admirable agility in diving low to complete the dismissal.
By that stage Ponting had dashed to 37 with a series of sweetly-timed attacking strokes, yet the veteran was content to play a supporting role in the presence of a typically positive Clarke.
The fourth-wicket pair were barely troubled during the afternoon, although Clarke did survive a scare on 36, when he edged Ishant Sharma through the gap between wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and the solitary wide slip.
After Clarke had blasted a straight six off Sehwag from the second delivery of the evening session, Ponting brought up his second hundred in three innings by cutting Zaheer for four.
Four overs later, Ponting’s successor as captain was able to celebrate, a steer down to the third man fence off Yadav taking Clarke to his 19th Test ton.
By the close, he had overtaken his partner, although his innings could have been brought to an end on 136 when Laxman failed to take a tough one-handed chance at second slip off Ishant.