Skipper Ricky Ponting ended his run drought on Indian soil with a superb century as Australia came back strongly after a shock start in the first Test on Thursday.

Ponting hit 123 to steer the tourists away from the first-over dismissal of Matthew Hayden to a more comfortable 254-4 by stumps on the opening day at the Chinnaswamy stadium here.

Ponting, who won the toss and elected to take first strike in good batting conditions, put on 166 for the second wicket with Simon Katich after Hayden was caught behind off the third ball of the match by Zaheer Khan.

Left-handed Katich justified his selection ahead of Phil Jaques by following up back-to-back centuries on the preceding tour of the West Indies earlier this year with a dour 66.

Ponting added 60 for the third wicket with Michael Hussey (46 not out) before he was trapped leg-before by Harbhajan Singh in the final session, the ninth time the Australian captain has fallen to the off-spinner.

Zaheer trapped Michael Clarke leg-before with the second new ball in the day’s last over, at which time the umpires called off play.

Ponting set aside a disappointing average of 12.27 in eight previous Tests in India to compile his 36th career Test century, just three behind record holder Sachin Tendulkar’s tally of 39.

“It was nice to get some runs today,” said the skipper, whose 200th Test innings made him only the fourth Australian after Allan Border and the Waugh brothers, Steve and Mark, to achieve the feat.

“As I have said since I have been here, I have been working really hard and I have made no secret of it that my record here has been poor, and I want to rectify that.

“Today is one step in the right direction and it was nice get the team into a good position, but one innings does not make a tour. I have got a few more yet to play.

“At no stage today did I put any extra pressure on myself to play different shots or combat anything the bowlers were doing.

“It was all about watching the ball and playing it on its merits and trusting my defensive technique more than anything.” Ponting’s 16th century as captain enabled him to stamp his authority at the start of his team’s defence of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in the four-Test series.

The only time Ponting looked in trouble was when India appealed for a return catch as the batsman, then on 110, drove a half-volley back to bowler Anil Kumble, the Indian captain.

With no TV review system in place for the series, umpire Rudi Koertzen consulted his colleague Asad Rauf before turning down the appeal, indicating Ponting had played the ball down into the ground.

Indian seamer Ishant Sharma applauded Ponting’s knock, saying “all good batsmen go through a rough patch, but they come out of it because they are so good.

“But the fourth wicket in the last over has evened up things a bit.

It was a very good effort on our part to concede just 254 runs in the entire day on a good batting wicket.” Sharma ended Katich’s vigil just before tea when the batsman poked at a ball outside the off-stump and the edge was easily taken by wicket-keeper Mahendra Dhoni.