Clarke (103no), who was given a major let-off when on 41, sealed his hundred in the final over of the day, but he was aided by a fine innings of 68 from debutant Moises Henriques, with the pair putting on 151 for the sixth wicket.
That came after Ashwin had single-handedly reduced the tourists to 153 for five and the off-spinner then ended Henriques' stay to end the day with figures of six for 88, while Ravindra Jadeja also picked up a late scalp as Australia finished on 316 for seven.
Australia, after winning the toss, got off to a rollicking start with David Warner and Ed Cowan scoring exactly 50 in the first 10 overs. Warner was dropped in the ninth over, Ashwin's first, when he edged to Virender Sehwag at slip only to see a straightforward chance shelled.
Warner survived again as Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed to take a tough stumping chance off Ashwin - a failing he rectified when he removed Cowan for 29. Cowan had hit Harbhajan Singh for the day's first six but was unable to repeat the dose against Ashwin and paid the price. Phil Hughes lasted 15 balls for six before edging Ashwin onto his stumps.
Shane Watson brought up the Australia hundred, with Warner moving to 50 soon after. Both batsmen were to fall to Ashwin shortly after the lunch interval, however, with Watson dismissed for 28 after being trapped on the back foot. Warner was then deceived by a quicker delivery and he also departed leg before wicket having made 59.
Ashwin had his fifth wicket when Matthew Wade played down the wrong line and was adjudged lbw to leave Australia reeling on 153 for five.
Australia's captain struck back-to-back fours off Jadeja but the batsman was given a lifeline shortly before the tea interval when umpire Kumar Dharmasena failed to spot a bat-pad catch - again off Ashwin.
Clarke made hay after the let-off by creaming Bhuvneshwar Kumar through the covers for four in the next over while he lofted Ashwin over long-on for six to reach his half-century in style. Henriques also quickly settled in the final session, hitting three fours in six balls, before bringing up his half-century with a quick single in the 78th over.
Clarke was closing in on his 23rd Test hundred, but his and Henriques' partnership was ended when the latter was trapped in front after missing a sweep at Ashwin. Mitchell Starc was bowled by Jadeja, but Australia would finish on a positive note with Clarke hammering the same bowler over mid-off for his 11th four which brought up a well-deserved hundred.
- Sports & Recreation
- Moises Henriques