|Clarke, right, should win back a few Australian hearts and minds with his day-long knock [GALLO/GETTY]|
Michael Clarke hit a brilliant unbeaten 251 and Ricky Ponting his first hundred in two years as Australia took control of the second Test against India on Wednesday, finishing the second day on an imposing 482 for four.
Clarke batted through the day for his first Test double century and the highest score by an Australian at the Sydney Cricket Ground, while Michael Hussey pitched in with 55 not out to give Australia a lead of 291 over India’s first innings 191.
Ponting had departed just before tea for 134 to end the fourth-wicket partnership with Clarke at 288, a record for Australia in Tests against India and a potentially match-winning effort from a pair who came together with the score on 37-3.
Needing victory to level the four-match series after a 122-run defeat in the opener in Melbourne last week, India’s bowlers had been hoping for some early wickets but instead laboured all day in the heat.
“It’s fantastic to have a score like I do but if you don’t win the Test match it means nothing,” Clarke said.
“I think the team is in a wonderful position at the moment (but) we’re a long way from being 2-0 up.”
Resuming on 116-3, Clarke brought up his fifty on the second ball of the morning and continued to play with composure as he moved towards his third century in his last six Tests.
The 30-year-old reached his 18th Test century, and the first of the series from either side, in the last over of the morning by slapping a Zaheer Khan delivery through the covers.
Ponting, who last scored a Test century against Pakistan in Hobart in January 2010, matched his successor as captain almost run-for-run throughout the session but endured a nervous wait on 97 through the lunch break.
Three overs into the afternoon, however, the 37-year-old reached his 40th Test century with a rushed single off the bowling of Ishant Sharma that could have cost him his wicket.
As Zaheer’s throw at the stumps missed, Ponting was able to pick himself up, brush off the dust and take a standing ovation from the 30,000 crowd.
“I think over the last few weeks there’s been enough signs to know and have faith that there was a big score just around the corner,” he said.
|Second day scorecard|
India first innings 191
Australia first innings
D Warner c Tendulkar b Khan 8
Still to bat: B Haddin, P Siddle, N Lyon, J Pattinson, B Hilfenhaus.
“It was an unbelievable day for us. Michael’s innings was the best I’ve ever seen him bat in any game I’ve played with him.”
It was the first long period of dominance for the bat in a series where bowlers have had the upper hand and India’s attack looked like journeymen until the new ball arrived.
Sharma finally broke up the partnership when he got some bounce into his deliveries and Ponting caught the ball high on the bat to give Sachin Tendulkar an easy catch in the gully.
By that time, Clarke had already reached his 150 and continued to hit the bowlers all over the ground to pass his previous best Test score of 168 shortly before tea.
Sharma could have dismissed him caught and bowled on 182 but just failed to keep hold of the ball and Clarke reached his double century a couple of overs later.
The landmark arrived with two runs through square after 365 minutes, 284 balls and included 24 fours and a single six and Clarke celebrated wildly, running around the pitch swinging his bat in the air.
Hussey joined in the run-spree with some gusto and hit his 50 off 70 balls, reaching the mark an over after hitting two fours and a six in successive balls off hapless spinner Ravi Ashwin.
It was undoubtedly Clarke’s day, though. An authoritative cover drive saw him past Doug Walters’ previous Australian record at the ground of 242 and there was still time to raise the 250.
“What makes me proud is that I batted the whole day, that’s something I’ve always tried to do and haven’t done very often, so that’s very satisfying to bat out a full day,” he said.
India have never won a Test series in Australia and face three days of hard work if they are to keep alive their hopes of doing so this year.
“It’s going to be a catch-up job from now on,” Ashwin said.
“We’re going to have to bat long and hard.”