DateLine: 5th January 2012
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This was yet another euphoric day for Australia's batsmen as they relentlessly piled on the agony on India until mercifully declaring on a daunting total of 659 for four which was just 15 short of Australiaís highest ever total against this opposition. It was back in 1947-48 when they hit 674 in Adelaide on India's first tour of this country. With a first innings deficit of 468, India were 114 for two the second time around and trailed by 354 at stumps. Even with Sachin Tendulkar at the crease on 8 and Gautam Gambhir on 68, they have a colossal task to save the match with two days remaining.
With his unselfish declaration Michael Clarke missed the opportunity of some personal glory of becoming the highest scoring Australian. With an unbeaten 329, scored over ten and a quarter hours, he remained just five runs short of Donald Bradman and Mark Taylor's score in Leeds in 1934 and Peshawar in 1998-99 respectively. In his brilliant form he could indeed have gone on to beat 380 by Matthew Hayden against Zimbabwe in Perth and that remains as the highest individual Test score by an Australian. For a session and an hour, Clarke and Michael Hussey gave a display of fluent strokes against a bowling attack which could find no penetration.
But resuming on the overnight score of 482 for four, both batsmen intent on increasing Australia's already substantial lead, batted with some caution. They added 43 in 75 minutes to bring up the two hundred of their stand and gradually increased the rate of scoring. Clarke, who was 251 at stumps on the second day, went past 270 the highest score by an Australian captain in Australia. Eventually he also passed Bob Simpson's 311 scored in Manchester in 1964 and that was the highest by an Australian captain anywhere.
Hussey, 55 overnight, gave his captain excellent support and scored freely as the innings progressed bringing up his sixteenth Test century from 188 balls and half those runs had come from boundaries. Meanwhile Clarke had swept Ravi Ashwin for four to take his score to 280 and two runs later became the highest run scorer in an Australia/India series going past VVS Laxman's memorable effort to win the Test after following-on in Calcutta in March 2001. Clarke then also overhauled J.E. Foster's 287 which since 1903 had been the highest individual score on this ground.
The next milestone for Clarke to reach was 300 runs and he duly became the sixth Australian to do so, joining an elite band of Bradman, Cowper, Simpson, Taylor and Hayden. Clarke reached the triple century with fours off consecutive balls from Ishant Sharma the first was a classic straight drive and then a drive to wide mid-wicket, simultaneously bringing up the 600 of the innings. The delighted Australia captain promptly kissed his country's badge on the helmet, a gesture which seems to have become customary among Australians.
With the bowlers tiring and the fielding getting increasingly ragged, both batsmen made scoring look easy and the three hundred of the stand came in 283 minutes. With their unbroken partnership worth 334 and Hussey bringing up his 150, the declaration came.
Asked about his great innings, Clarke said: "It feels pretty good now but I don't think it will sink in properly until we win the Test. That was my goal today, I am thrilled that I managed to make 300 odd runs today but the most important thing for me is that we win and that was a big part of my reason for the declaration." He went on to say: "I wanted Huss to get 150, he deserved that, he batted beautifully today and once he got that I thought now that we have got 450 run lead it's a good time to pull up stumps and try to get a couple of wickets tonight."
Asked if he had thought about Bradman and Taylor's score of 334, he answered: "No not at all. If I managed to pass them before we made 450 run lead then that would have been fantastic. All the other records don't mean, Iím happy with where I sit."
Having begun their second innings three quarter hours before tea, India lost Virender Sehwag in the fourth over when he slashed at a ball well outside off stump and David Warner held a fine leaping catch overhead at point. Gambhir and Rahul Dravid brought up the hundred with Gambhir meanwhile reaching fifty from 54 balls. Dravid didn't last long and on 29 he was bowled between bat and pad by Ben Hilfenhaus who had taken the two wickets for 29.
Gambhir was fortunate on 66 when Brad Haddin, behind the stumps missed a simple catch in the penultimate over of the day. In the last hour India batted with caution scoring 15 from as many overs and Tendulkar had eight in a little over an hour at the crease. Hilfenhaus nearly had him play-on when an inside edge missed the leg stump by a couple of inches.
Speaking at the end of play, Dravid said: "I don't think we should think about saving this game, we should go out there tomorrow and show some fight and bat for as long as we can. Who knows what can happen, we've got some quality players who can bat long periods of time."
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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