ADELAIDE:Matthew Hayden moved to outright third on the list of Australian Test century makers and Ricky Ponting found some belated form as disciplined batting held off India's bowlers on day three of the fourth and final Test.
Marking the Australia Day national holiday, the hosts reached 322-3 at stumps in reply to India's 526, to take a firm grip on the series. India must win this Test in order to square the series 2-2, but is already running short of time to force a result.
Hayden (103) put on 159 for the opening wicket with Phil Jaques (60) to provide Australia with a strong platform to overhaul India's first innings.
Ponting and Michael Clarke built on that foundation and, with more effort than ease, added 81 in an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership to stumps. Ponting was 79 not out at the close, his 40th half-century in Tests and sixth against India, ending his mediocre previous performances in the series.
Runs didn't come easily through the late afternoon against tight and varied Indian bowling. Ponting took 3 hours, 17 minutes to reach his 50 which contained only three boundaries.
Clarke batted 114 minutes for his 37 and Michael Hussey took 80 minutes to make 22 before being bowled by Irfan Pathan.
India used seven bowlers in the search for breakthroughs and to compensate for the loss of opening bowler R.P. Singh to a hamstring injury.
Their accuracy allowed Australia only 67 runs in the second session and 77 in the third, but they could not find the wickets India needs.
Hayden made centuries in the first and second Tests, won by Australia at Melbourne and Sydney, but missed the third Test at Perth through injury.
His century was his 30th in 94 Tests and his sixth in 14 Tests against India. He has now scored 406 runs in five innings in this series with three centuries and an average in excess of 80.
The Queenslander moved to outright third place on the list of Australian century makers Saturday behind his captain, Ponting, with 33 and Steve Waugh with 32.
He also moved out of a third-place tie with Donald Bradman, whose 29 centuries in 52 matches are iconic figures in Australian cricket.
Hayden was undone after spending 273 minutes at the crease, facing 200 balls and preserving his wicket through 64 overs, by a superb delivery from Ishant Sharma which arced into the left-hander from outside off stump and penetrated his guard.
The ability of the right-armer Sharma, 19, to swing a ball 64 overs old into the left-handed Hayden and to beat his rigid defense stamped the young Indian swing bowler as a special talent.
The Hayden wicket was only his fourth of the series, captured at a cost of 68 runs apiece, but Sharma showed an ability in Perth and again at Adelaide to trouble the Australian top order, even in the most favorable batting conditions.
Ponting's arrival on the dismissal of Jaques _ bowled by Anil Kumble _ prompted India to immediately recall Harbhajan Singh to the bowling crease. Harbhajan has dismissed Ponting three times in the series so far, but the Australian captain played his off breaks with more aptitude on Saturday.