Clarke's ton rescues Australia after Ashwin's fifer

Chennai, Feb 22 (IANS) Michael Clarke struck a captain's knock of an unbeaten 103 to rescue Australia's innings but off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bagged his sixth fifer to put India on top in the first Test after the first day's play here Friday.

Clarke, who was given a lucky let-off on 39, remained unbeaten on 103 as Australia ended the day at 316 for seven in the first innings.

Clarke's lucky escape would hurt the Indians as they had Australia on the ropes at 153 for five, after Ashwin (6/88), removed the the top-order in the first two sessions.

But Clarke, who walked in after Australia slumped from 126 for two to 153 for five, and debutant Moises Henriques (68) got the innings back on track with their crucial 151-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

Clarke, who struck 11 fours and a six, went past legendary Don Bradman (6996) he surpassed 7000 Test runs.

The Australian captain got his century in style hitting the penultimate ball of the day for a four over mid-off. Clarke was lucky to have survived a bat-pad while on 39. TV replays showed that Clarke had a big inside edge but umpire Kumar Dharmasena thought otherwise.

Opting to bat first, Australia made a quick start with opening batsmen Davis Warner (59), who was playing a sore thumb, and Ed Cowan (29) quickly adding 64 runs.

Cowan departed in his attempt to charge down the ground and was stumped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni off Ashwin while Phil Jacques (6) dragged on to his stumps in his attempt to cut the offie.

But Warne, who survived two chances, grew in confidence and with Shane Watson (28) played some fine strokes as Australia reached lunch at 126 for two. Warner was first dropped on 18 by Virender Sehwag at first slip off Ashwin and then escaped a stumping when on 27 again to the local boy.

In the second session, Australia lost way as three quick strikes by Ashwin reduced them from 126 for two to 153 for three in 12 overs.

Watson, Matthew Wade (12) and Warner all fell lbw to Ashwin, who varried his length and pace as the pitch kept low.

It was a great innings by Clarke, who walked in at 126 for three, and was involved in a crucial 151-run partnership for the sixth wicket with debutant Moises Henriques (68) that helped Australia get past the 300-run mark. Clarke 11 fours and a six during his 169-ball unbeaten knock.

With Australia, struggling at 153 for five, Clarke joined forces with Henriques to resuciate the innings. They scored briskly and Henriques struck five fours in his 132-ball knock.

At a time when it seemed that both Clarke and Henriques would see the day through without any more loss, Ashwin struck in the 90th over as Henriques became his fourth lbw victim.

Ravindra Jadeja dismissed Mitchell starc (1) in the next over, going through his defence with a straight ball that crashed on to his off-stump.

Australia, however, will be happy to have scored 300 runs on the first day as the track will get lower and slower as the game progresses.

Meanwhile, it was the first time in 28 years that two Tamil Nadu players, Ashwin and Murali Vijay, were playing a Test match at home together. W.V.Raman and Kris Srikkanth last appeared together in a Test match against the West Indies in 1988.

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