Sachin Tendulkar completed his 40th Test century but Australia's bowlers struck at regular intervals to reduce India to 311 for 5 by close on Day 1 of the fourth and final Test in Nagpur on Thursday.
Tendulkar was lucky to get to the three-figure mark, having been dropped twice in the nineties, on both occasions off debutant spinner Jason Krejza. He was finally dismissed leg before wicket for 109 -- inclusive of 12 boundaries, off 188 deliveries -- by Mitchell Johnson late in the day.
Krejza went for runs but ended up with three wickets -- those of Rahul Dravid (0), Virender Sehwag (66) and VVS Laxman (64) -- for 138 in 28 overs in his very first innings in Test cricket.
Earlier, Sehwag hammered 66 from 69 deliveries, including nine boundaries and a six, and put on 98 runs for the opening wicket with debutant opener Murali Vijay, who scored 33.
India were in a tight spot after losing three quick wickets for the addition of just 18 runs, but Laxman and Tendulkar staged a rescue act in a 146-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
India lead the four-match series after the 320-run victory in Mohali.
Morning session: (122 runs, 24 overs, 3 wickets)
Brett Lee started off proceedings at the Vidharba Cricket Association's posh new stadium with a wide delivery to Virender Sehwag, who then crashed him for a boundary two balls later to get off the mark in style.
The 24-year-old Vijay, fresh from a double century in the Ranji Trophy, looked quite composed and tried to make full use of a good batting wicket.
Sehwag appeared in a mad rush from the start as he smashed two boundaries off Mitchell Johnson in the second over. In the next over, Vijay showed some of his class, hitting a cracking boundary through covers off Lee.
Sehwag continued flirting with danger in his quest for quick runs, smashing his way to 28, as India raced to 50 in the 10th over of the innings. The signs were ominous for the visitors as the pitch looked a dream track for batting and even debutant Vijay appeared quite comfortable and keen to cash in.
With the pacers looking ineffective, spin was introduced in the form of Jason Krejza. Immediately Sehwag took him to the cleaners. In the fourth ball of his first over in international cricket, the off-spinner saw Sehwag thumping him straight for a boundary followed by a huge six over wide long-on.
The Delhi opener brought up his half-century in the 15th over off just 45 deliveries, including seven boundaries and a six.
Even Vijay had a ball as he tried to emulate Sehwag by stepping down the wicket and lofting Krejza straight for a boundary.
Sehwag continued the onslaught with two more boundaries in Krejza's next over as the debutant looked completely clueless.
However, the visitors bagged a wicket against the run of play when Shane Watson dismissed Vijay, caught behind for 33. The opener failed to keep down a short delivery and edged it behind after a blazing 98-run partnership for the opening wicket with Sehwag.
As it usually happens in cricket, one wicket results in a few more, handing the initiative to the visitors.
Rahul Dravid's wretched run in the series continued as he fell to the second ball he faced, to Krejza for a duck. The right-hander hit one straight to the short-leg fielder to give Krejza his first international wicket.
After the half-century in the first innings of the first Test, Dravid's batting has witnessed a sharp slide, just 117 runs aggregated in six innings at 19.50 in the series so far.
Sehwag then tried to cut Krejza but edged it on to his stumps. He was bowled for 66. His 69-ball knock included nine boundaries and a six, but his wicket gave Australia a chance to pull back things.
At lunch on the opening day, India were 122 for 3 in 24 overs, with Sachin Tendulkar unbeaten on 16 from 16 deliveries, including three boundaries. VVS Laxman, playing in his 100th Test, was not out on 4.
Krejza brought some respectability to his figures with those two wickets, for 48 in six overs. Watson was the other wicket-taker, with took one for 19 in six overs.
India need to avoid giving away wickets cheaply in the post-lunch session and build towards a huge first innings score.
Post-lunch session: (80 runs, 27 overs)
India continued to progress smoothly post-lunch as both Tendulkar and Laxman scored runs at will. Tendulkar looked particularly comfortable as he kept the scoreboard ticking and ensured that the scoring rate did not drop despite the fall of three quick wickets.
Laxman was struck on the right shoulder by a fast, rising bouncer from Lee in the 34th over, but he replied with a cracking pull shot for a boundary in the pacer's next over.
In between, Tendulkar continued giving Krejza a rough time as he smashed him for two boundaries in one over the first lofted over midwicket and the next straight down the ground.
The two batsmen brought up their 50-run partnership off 63 deliveries in the 37th over.
Tendulkar completed his half-century, his 52nd in Tests, off 65 deliveries, hitting eight boundaries in the 41st over. He relished facing Krejza, whom he hit for 36 runs in 43 deliveries. It was not long though before Cameron White was introduced and he resorted to defensive tactics looking to contain rather than attack.
At the other end, Laxman provided the calming influence as he just concentrated on playing it safe. But India progressed at an acceptable rate despite Australia trying their best to restrict the scoring.
Eighty runs were scored in 27 overs in the second session as India coasted to 202 for three in 51 overs at the tea break.
Tendulkar was unbeaten on 65 from 88 deliveries, with eight boundaries, while Laxman was not out on 34 from 95 deliveries, including three boundaries.
endulkar looks quite comfortable in the middle, while Laxman also seems intent on playing another big knock. The pitch is full of runs and the two senior pros are making sure they don't let the opportunity slip.
Post-Tea session: (109 runs, 36 overs, 2 wickets)
Tendulkar brought up the 100-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Laxman in the 55th over. On 74, in the next over, he escaped a close run-out chance as Krejza missed hitting the stumps at the non-striker's end.
Krejza then came into the attack in the 57th over and was immediately taken on by Laxman, who hit a slog sweep over midwicket for a boundary.
Tendulkar repeated the dose in his next over for his 10th boundary and moved into the 80s. On 85 he had another big reprieve -- this time Johnson dropped a simple skier at mid-off in the 63rd over. The veteran batsman stepped down to loft Krejza straight down the ground but could not get enough distance. However, to his relief, the catch was spooned by Johnson, running backwards.
Laxman made his 100th Test memorable by completing a half-century off 126 deliveries, including four boundaries, in the 63rd over.
But Krejza delivered another big blow in the final session when he claimed the Hyderabad batsman's wicket. The stylish right-hander tried to cut a wide delivery, but ended up edging it behind for 64, that included five boundaries in 141 deliveries. He added 146 runs for the fourth wicket, off 271 deliveries, with Tendulkar to help India recover from an early spot of bother after they lost three quick wickets.
Sourav Ganguly walked out to a rather subdued ovation from the sparse gathering inside the stadium.
It seemed that Tendulkar was destined to reach the three-figure mark as he was dropped yet again, on 96. He tried to lift Krejza down the ground again and this time Brett Lee, running back, failed to hold on to a sharp chance.
The master batsman completed his 40th Test century when he cut Krejza for a boundary in the 75th over. It took him 166 deliveries, 12 boundaries, and around four hours to score the first century at the new VCA stadium.
Like all his teammates before him, Ganguly also took a special liking to Krejza's gentle off-spin and lifted him for boundaries in consecutive overs through the leg-side.
Australia took the new ball after 81 overs and it paid off soon after. Johnson (1 for 54) got the big wicket of Tendulkar leg before wicket for 109 (188 deliveries, 12 boundaries) at possibly the worst time for India with just eight overs left for stumps.
Ganguly (27 not out) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (4 not out) negotiated the final few overs successfully as India closed the opening day on 311 for five in 87 overs.
Tendulkar's wicket was a big blow for India as it gave the Aussies a sniff of a chance. However, wickets are still difficult to come by and India will be hoping to stitch a few big partnerships on the second day and score well in excess of 500.
Krejza must be thrilled to claim three wickets on debut though he ended up giving away lot of runs for figures of three for 138 in 28 overs.
Watson ended the day with figures of 1 for 35.