DateLine: 4th January 2012
In association with Etihad Airways.
Sydney, 04 January 2012. Michael Clarke's monumental unbeaten innings of 251, for which he batted throughout the day, displaying elegance as well as force in his strokes, has put Australia in an unassailable position in the second Test. On 482 for four and a first innings lead of 291 which will be substantially increased, they have put the opposition out of the game. India's hopes of bouncing back in the series after defeat in the first Test were virtually shattered when Clarke and Ricky Ponting combined in a dominating fourth wicket stand.
Their partnership, which began just over an hour after tea on the first day when the Australian innings was reduced to 37 for three, continued through nearly two complete sessions on the second day. During this period they went past the highest stand for Australia for any wicket against India. The previous highest was 239 for the fifth wicket between Ponting and Steve Waugh in Adelaide in 1999-2000.
Both batsmen would have been not just delighted but indeed relieved by their performance. Clarke had been struggling in poor form and had scored just 31 and 1 in the previous Test and Ponting had not had a three-figure innings for two years. His last such innings was against Pakistan in Hobart in January 2010 when he hit a double century. The Australia captain and the former captain kept pace with each other in their rate of scoring with none of the bowlers making an impression on either of them.
In perfect batting conditions and on a pitch which was fine to start with and which flattened as the innings progressed, they played attractive shots but took little chances as they revived the innings before piling on the runs later with confidence. Aware of their responsibility they watchfully added 38 in the first hour and then as they took control they scored with greater ease, adding 82 in the next hour with Clarke bringing up his eighteenth Test century from 136 balls when he beautifully drove Ishant Sharma to the cover boundary.
Ponting was on 97 at lunch with Australia 236 for three and his sixth Test hundred on this ground where he has played sixteen Tests came from 150 balls when he had to dive full length at the crease to complete a single. It was his fortieth Test hundred in his 160th Test. India's attack looked hapless with both batsmen scoring freely. Clarke went down the wicket to lift spinner Ravi Ashwin for a straight six and the 250 of the stand came at the rate of a run-a-minute.
India took the second new ball for the 83rd over and got the breakthrough they urgently needed. Ponting, who had played some perfectly timed drives particularly on the on side, finally fell to Sharma whom he tried to cut and was held in the gully. His 134 runs came from 225 balls and his stand with Clarke was worth 288 over five hours. Ponting said: "The important thing for both of us was to make sure we played our natural game, I think Michael showed great intent from the moment he came to the crease. We both managed to score reasonably quickly last night which just gave us a bit of momentum going into stumps and then we started the same way this morning."
He went on to say: "Our scoring rate through this innings has been very good and we are taking the game forward all the time which is the way we want to play our cricket, so at the moment we are sitting in a strong position thanks to some brilliant batting by the captain."
But claiming Ponting's wicket was not going to provide much respite for the Indians as Clarke then combined with Michael Hussey and soon reached his maiden Test double century. Meanwhile on 182 he had given the chance of a return catch to Sharma who failed to accept it and that was the only blemish in Clarke's innings.
Along with Hussey he brought up the hundred of their stand from 107 balls and Hussey whose straight six took him to 48 reached his half century from 70 balls. Clarke went on scoring at will all around the wicket playing glorious strokes. He drove Zaheer straight for four and promptly despatched the next ball to the extra cover boundary to reach 246 to become the highest scoring Australian on this ground beating 242 by Doug Walters against West Indies in 1969.
In giving excellent support to Clarke over two and a quarter hour, Hussey ended the day on 55 not out from 97 balls faced while his captain had 342 balls in an innings spanning seven and a quarter hours of agony for India. Clarke said: "To go out to score some runs today was very special, the team is in a wonderful position at the moment. The wicket has flattened out a lot compared to day one so the most important thing for us is making sure there is enough time left in the game to give ourselves a chance to bowl India out."
He added: "We need to bat well tomorrow morning to set the game up, we are a long way away from being two nil up. A lot of hard work has to go in over the next three days but we are in a really good position at this stage."
For the Day 1 report please click here
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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