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Hayden leads Australian charge in final Test against India - by Kuldip Lal

MADRAS, India, March 18 (AFP) - Matthew Hayden feasted on India's new-look spin attack to hit his second century of the series as Australia took charge of the third and decisive Test here on Sunday.

The tall left-hander scored a career-best 147 not out and Mark Waugh made a fluent 70 to lift the tourists to 326-3 by close of the first day's play at the Chepauk stadium.

Hayden, who made 119 in the first Test at Bombay and 97 in the second at Calcutta, put on 150 in 153 minutes for the third wicket with Mark Waugh and 109 for the unfinished fourth with skipper Steve Waugh.

It was Hayden's third Test century and surpassed his previous best score of 125 against the West Indies at Adelaide in 1997.

Steve Waugh, who won his third successive toss in the series and promptly elected to take first strike on a flat wicket, was unbeaten at stumps on 43.

Mark Waugh hit seven fours and a six in his fluent 70 before he holed out in the deep just before tea, giving debutant leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule his first Test wicket.

Even the loss of Michael Slater to the third ball of the match did not deter the Australians, still seething at India's series-levelling win in the second Test last Thursday.

The tourists hit 140 runs in the morning session, 108 between lunch and tea and 78 in the final two hours.

Hayden, showing his aggressive intent through the day, hit 11 boundaries and five sixes.

The Indian spin attack toiled in vain in good batting conditions, their job made harder by the oppressive heat and humidity.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, India's hero at Calcutta with 13 wickets in the match, was hammered for 100 runs in 26 overs.

Bahutule went for 58 runs in 16 overs while left-armer Nilesh Kulkarni, recalled to the Test side after four years, conceded 67 runs from his 23 overs.

Sachin Tendulkar, coming on late in the day with his mix of leg-spin and googlies, was the only bowler to keep the run flow down with 0-16 from eight overs.

India were left to rue the sloppy work behind the wickets by debutant Sameer Dighe, who replaced the injured Nayan Mongia for the crucial Test.

The 31-year-old from Bombay failed to run out Hayden on 30 and then fumbled an easy stumping off Mark Waugh when the batsman was on nine.

It was the opening Australia needed to win the first round in what promises to be a keen tussle over the next four days.

"There was little the bowlers could do in such conditions," said Indian captain Sourav Ganguly.

"We had our chances but the wicket is so good it just needs the batsman to put his foot out and hit.

"We would also probably have made 300 had I won the toss. All I know is we need wickets badly on the second morning to keep the runs in check," he said.

Australia made a disastrous start when Slater edged the third ball of the day from Zaheer Khan to Venkatsai Laxman at first slip.

Despite the early setback, Hayden and Justin Langer hit the bowlers around the ground to rattle up 67 in the first 40 minutes.

Langer, who made a run-a-ball 35, hit six boundaries and a six before Harbhajan beat him in the air and forced an easy catch to Rahul Dravid at first slip.

Hayden hit two sixes each off Harbhajan and Kulkarni before lunch, bringing up his half-century with one that sailed into the crowd at long-on.

He reached his century just before tea, a feat his captain celebrated by lofting Harbhajan for a six.

Leg-spinner Shane Warne was, meanwhile, retained in the Australian team despite coach John Buchanan's reservations on Saturday. Off-spinner Colin Miller replaced fast bowler Michael Kasprowicz.

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