Perth: Veteran Indian batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid capitalised on a dropped chance to build a century partnership on the opening day of the third Test at the WACA.
After Indian captain Anil Kumble won the toss and elected to bat against Australia, they were 177 for two at tea, with Tendulkar on 59 and Dravid not out 52.
The pair had put on 118 but Dravid should been back in the pavilion on 11.
Back in his favoured position at number three, he got an outside edge to a Brett Lee delivery and it flew straight to Clarke at first slip, where he grassed the regulation chance that would have left India in trouble at 85 for three.
Tendulkar and Dravid made the most of the good fortune to work India into a solid position as Australia's gamble on four fast bowlers appeared to backfire.
Tearaway speedster Shaun Tait, brought in at the expense of spinner Brad Hogg, rarely threatened and Mitchell Johnson, despite claiming the wicket of the recalled Virender Sehwag (29) was generally ineffective.
Lee and the unlucky Stuart Clark, who beat the bat regularly early in the day without reward, were the best of the Australian bowlers.
Tendulkar handled the extra bounce of the WACA with aplomb, twice guiding short-pitched deliveries over the top of the slips to the boundary.
The only member of the Indian side to have played a Test at the WACA, he reached his half-century in 125 minutes, from 91 balls with eight fours.
Aside from his early let-off, Dravid was generally solid, producing some crisp cover drives in a sign his best form was returning and took 150 minutes to reach 50, from 95 balls and with nine boundaries.
Openers Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer weathered Australia's early pace blitz to put on 57 for the first wicket, but both fell in the space of two runs before lunch.
Playing his first Test in more than a year, Sehwag rode his luck early, playing and missing numerous times against an unlucky Clark before feathering a short ball from Johnson through to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.
India's previous best opening stand of the series was 26.
Jaffer batted with assurance but on 16 flirted with a wide ball from Lee and got an outside edge that Gilchrist took.
The match follows a controversial week in the wake of the contentious second Test in Sydney, with claims of racial abuse, poor sportsmanship and poor umpiring.
The Australians won that match by 122 runs to take a 2-0 lead in the four-Test series and victory here would mean a world record 17th consecutive Test win.
The home side made two changes, with injured batsman Matthew Hayden replaced by uncapped opener Chris Rogers and Tait coming in for Hogg.
India also made two changes, with spinner Harbhajan Singh dropped for seamer Irfan Pathan, and the struggling Yuvraj Singh replaced by Sehwag.
Australia, who went into the match without a specialist spinner for the first time since India's previous Test at the WACA in 1992, are undefeated since beating South Africa by 184 runs here two years ago.
The existing record of 16 straight Test wins was set under Ponting's predecessor, Steve Waugh, from October 1999 to February 2001.
Brief Scores (at tea, D-1):
India Ist innings 177/2 (Tendulkar 59, Dravid 52, Sehwag 29; Johnson 1 for 28, Lee 1 for 47) Vs Australia.