| Sourav Ganguly has a word of advice for Harbhajan Singh during the opening day’s play at the Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday. (AFP)
Brisbane: A well-paced unbeaten century by Justin Langer capped a dominating performance by Australia on Day I of the first Test against a struggling India at the Gabba on Thursday.
Steve Waugh’s farewell series began on the right note for the Aussies as they finished the first day at 262 for two with Langer on 115, accompanied by Damien Martyn on 36 before poor light brought an end to the extended post-tea session.
Overcast conditions in the morning and a couple of rain interruptions failed to clamp down the Aussie onslaught, negating Sourav Ganguly’s advantage of winning the toss and opting to bowl under a dark cloud cover.
A perfect century stand for the third wicket between Langer and Martyn helped the hosts take firm control even as the Indians found timely breakthroughs with the dismissals of Matthew Hayden (37) and Ricky Ponting (54) earlier.
Not that Hayden and Ponting were subdued any bit in their batting. The two put on 73 and 89 runs respectively for the first two wickets with Langer and succumbed only to their own over-confidence rather than to the opposition bowling.
After a loss of 77 minutes of play due to rain in the opening session, the tourists were submerged in the Aussie run deluge. Hayden waded into the Indian bowling in disdainful manner, driving and chopping the left arm pace duo of Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan.
Langer, who survived a catch by Aakash Chopra at forward short leg on eight as Nehra’s delivery was ruled ‘no ball’, settled down to play the anchor role and left the damage doing to his more buccaneering partner.
But just when the Australians were flying at well above 4.5 runs an over, India claimed the prized scalp of Hayden.
Hayden’s dismissal came against the run of play as he uncharacteristically flashed his bat outside the off-stump and the edge was taken neatly by V.V.S. Laxman at second slip off Zaheer.
Ponting announced his intentions with three sparkling boundaries in the very next over from Agarkar before playing a rasping pull off Zaheer.
The Australian captain-elect’s charge helped the hosts sustain the brisk scoring rate and the 100 came in 24th over.
But Agarkar returned to bowl a tight second spell and in particular tied down Ponting with his away moving deliveries. Ponting survived a loud appeal for caught behind which TV replays showed to be noise of bat hitting the ground.
At the other end, Langer was repeatedly rapped on the pads as he went for sweep shots against offie Harbhajan Singh.
Chopra was again in action when he got his fingers under a Harbhajan ball gloved by Langer but he failed to hold on to it.
This particular phase marked the slowing down of the Aussie juggernaut as the run rate dipped to 3.97.
But Ponting broke the shackles with a huge six into the long-on stands off Harbhajan and then square-drove Agarkar for his half century which came in 72 balls. In all, his knock consisted seven fours and a six.
Ponting ultimately fell while trying to pull a Zaheer delivery from outside the off-stump and top edged a simple catch to wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel.
But if the Indians thought the two dismissals would provide them any respite, they were badly mistaken as Langer and Martyn brought runs at an even faster rate, at near run a ball.