ADELAIDE:Australia captain Ricky Ponting equalled Sunil Gavaskar by scoring his 34th Test century on the fourth day of the fourth Test against India on Sunday.
But retiring wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist fell cheaply in what is likely to be his last Test innings as the home side claimed a 37-run first innings lead.
At stumps, with Gilchrist captaining Australia due to an injury to Ponting, India were 45 for one in their second innings, with Virender Sehwag on 31 and Rahul Dravid on 11. India led by eight runs and a draw appears certain. Australia lead the series 2-1.
India's experiment of promoting Irfan Pathan to the top of the order again failed, with the opening bowler trapped lbw by Mitchell Johnson for a duck.
India only had two runs on the board and should have lost fellow opener Sehwag on the same score, but Michael Clarke's abysmal run in the field continued when he dropped a simple catch from the bowling of Brett Lee.
Having announced his retirement on Saturday, all eyes were on the new record holder for Test dismissals by a wicketkeeper when Gilchrist came out to bat, replacing Clarke (118) with Australia at 490 for five.
He received an enormous ovation as he strode on to the Adelaide Oval, the crowd chanting "Gilly" and the Indians lining up to applaud him.
Gilchrist got off the mark from the fifth ball, with a crisp straight drive off Ishant Sharma.
The 36-year-old almost took out umpire Billy Bowden with a typically thundering straight drive for four off Pathan (3-112), but a moment later the bowler had his revenge when Gilchrist slashed a wide delivery straight to Sehwag at cover.
The wicketkeeper had made just 14 from 18 balls in an all too brief glimpse of his batting genius, and again got a rousing ovation from the crowd and his opponents as he trudged off, with Sharma running up from fine leg to shake his hand before he left.
While Gilchrist left the crowd wanting more, Ponting bounced back to form with 140.
He equalled Gavaskar and West Indian Brian Lara's mark, but still has a way to go to catch Sachin Tendulkar, who has 39 centuries.
It ended something of a drought for the Australian skipper, who went into the match with just 122 runs at 20.33 in the series and question marks over his ability to counter Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Ponting, who batted with a runner towards the end of his innings because of a sore back and did not take to the field in India's second innings, was extremely watchful early on and struggled for touch, but he was back to his best on Sunday.
He batted for 392 minutes, faced 266 deliveries and hit 10 fours, eventually playing on from the bowling of Sehwag.
Clarke, who added 210 with Ponting for the fourth wicket, scored his sixth century before being caught in slips by V.V.S Laxman from the bowling of exciting teenager Sharma (3-115), who was again impressive.
Australia, who have already regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, resumed at 322 for three, with the bad blood between the teams resurfacing after Saturday's play.
Sehwag suggested on Saturday evening that the cautious nature of Australia's batting showed they were "scared" of losing the match.
However, Australian opener Matthew Hayden then fired back by saying India were bowling negatively to slow scoring and that the home side were happy to oblige, as a draw would ensure they won the series.
Tensions against surfaced just before lunch on Sunday, when substitute fielder Dinesh Karthik and Clarke exchanged words after umpire Bowden turned down an appeal for a catch at the wicket off Harbhajan.
Straight after the unsuccessful appeal, Clarke infuriated the Indians by twice pulling away as Harbhajan was about to bowl.