Bangalore: A solid 99-run opening partnership between Shane Watson and Simon Katich, followed by skipper Ricky Ponting`s patient 77 helped Australia reach 285 for five on the first day of second and final cricket Test against India here on Saturday.
Ponting, who adorned his 147-ball innings with 12 fours, also became Australia`s leading run scorer against India in Test cricket, overtaking Matthew Hayden, who had scored 1,888 between 2001 and 2008.
Marcus North (43) and Tim Paine (8) remained unbeaten when the day`s proceedings had to be stopped due to bad light after 85.5 overs.
Earlier electing to bat, the Australians went off to a good start as Watson, who made a composed 57 with the help of nine fours, and Katich (43) negotiated the Indian bowling challenge with ease.
Watson, who scored 126 and 56 in Mohali Test, batted with confidence under overcast conditions, scoring runs at a brisk pace.
It was just the kind of start Australia were looking for as they aim to level the two-match series, having narrowly lost the first Test by one wicket.
Ponting walked into the ground, after the hosts got their first success as off-spinner Harbhajan Singh scalped Katich in the 28th over, and smashed a boundary through point to open his personal account.
Katich had earlier cut Harbhajan for a four and a similar attempt resulted in a fine edge towards slip cordon as Rahul Dravid took a smart catch.
Katich`s departure affected Australia`s run-rate and soon left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha gave India their second success, removing Watson in the 35th over.
A bouncy and turning delivery from Ojha beat Watson and kissed his gloves before India skipper M S Dhoni took a good catch behind the sticks.
Australians, who were scoring freely in morning session, opted for a defensive strategy after lunch break as Ponting and his deputy Clarke (14) tried to anchor in the middle.
Clarke (14) soon became Harbhajan`s second victim.
The Australian leaned forward to defend but the ball turned, got the inside edge and jumped off the pad towards backward short-leg where an alert Suresh Raina dived forward to pouch the ball.
Ponting then got the company of Michael Hussey (34) and the duo ensured there were no more hiccups for the visitors till the tea break.
Raina got the big break-through after the lunch when his turning delivery found Ponting`s leg in front of the sticks and soon Hussey also returned to the dug out as paceman Zaheer Khan got his first success of the day.
Had Ponting got a ton today, he would have become the Australia batsman to have most centuries against India.
Presently, Ponting and Allan Border share the feat with six centuries to their credit.
Among Indians, Harbhajan scalped two wickets by giving away 100 runs, while Zaheer, Ojha and Raina bagged one apiece.