Simon Katich batted throughout both sessions after struggling to get bat to ball before lunch to reach 77 not out at the interval, adding 120 for the third wicket with Michael Clarke at better than a run a minute.
Clarke, who scored a second innings 136 in a losing cause in last year’s Ashes test at Lord’s, played some delightful drives to reach 47 before he was lbw to Mohammad Asif off the final ball before tea.
The first test in England between two overseas teams since the 1912 Triangular series started 90 minutes late after overnight rain and Shahid Afridi, with two batsmen making their test debuts in his side, elected to bowl first after winning the toss.
His decision was vindicated when Mohammad Aamer dismissed Shane Watson for four after the batsmen misjudged a ball ducking late into the right-hander. Watson did not offer a stroke and was bowled when the ball rebounded off his pads on to the stumps.
Afridi gave himself an exploratory over with his leg-spinners immediately after the interval, conceding six runs including a driven boundary from the first ball by Ricky Ponting.
After a 12-minute break for bad light, the Australian captain took his total to 26, overtaking Brian Lara on the way to move to second place behind Sachin Tendulkar in the all-time test run-scoring list.
He then turned Aamer uppishly off his hip to short-leg where debutant Umar Amin took a smart reflex catch. Aamer appeared to brush against Ponting on a celebratory run to accept the congratulations of his team mates.
Amin got his finger tips to a sharp chance from Clarke off Aamer when the Australian vice-captain had scored four but, although the ball continued to regularly beat the bat, nothing else went to hand.
Asif, who had bowled beautifully in the morning session with sharp away swing, conceded three boundaries in an over to Clarke who had begun to time the ball sweetly through the covers.
Katich, with his shuffle from leg to off before delivery and minimalist backlift, won no prizes for style but continued to play an invaluable role for his country, reaching his 23rd test half-century after 10 minutes short of three hours at the crease.
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