Mike Hussey ensured the first day effort of captain Ricky Ponting was not wasted by guiding Australia to 5-333 against India at lunch on day two of the first Test in Bangalore.
The tourists lost allrounder Shane Watson in only the fourth over of the morning thanks to a hostile spell from Ishant Sharma (2-53), but Hussey (92no) and Brad Haddin (26no) then settled down for a measured partnership of 74.
Hussey found form last week with a century in the warm-up match against the Indian Board President’s XI in Hyderabad and on Friday showed all the hallmarks that have given him the near freakish Test batting average of 71.08 in his career so far.
At the other end Haddin was circumspect, apart from a handful of wild swipes outside off stump at Sharma, and seemed to be settling in for a long occupation at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
A pitch that had been harmless, if a little slow, on day one began to play some alarming tricks on the second morning.
Watson, playing his fourth Test and first since November 2005, was very nearly lbw to a delivery from Sharma that broke back sharply off one of the wicket’s widening cracks, so much so that it would have missed leg stump.
Two balls later he was beaten for pace and lost his off bail, a just reward for Sharma’s second searching new ball effort of the innings.
While the movement was too much for Watson it was a promising sign of what will be on offer for Australian quick Stuart Clark, who has the sort of Sharma-like height and pace to exploit the cracks.
Hussey and Haddin then set about building momentum, Hussey typically strong when driving through cover and Haddin finding his feet before firing off an impudent flick through midwicket off the bowling of Zaheer Khan (2-76).
They received some help from the Indians in the field, particularly Sourav Ganguly, who gifted Hussey a boundary when he allowed an off drive to squeeze between his legs by failing to get all the way down.
When Anil Kumble brought himself and Harbhajan Singh on to bowl, Haddin responded by plonking the Indian captain over mid on for a boundary, and Hussey followed up with a cover drive to the rope that pierced the tiniest of gaps.
A marker of Kumble’s capacity for toil arrived late in the session when he was struck for his 100th run of the innings.
It gave him 56 “bowling centuries”, the most by any bowler.