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India battle to avoid defeat after Clarke’s triple ton

 SYDNEY, Jan 5 (PTI): A hapless India appeared headed for their sixth consecutive overseas Test defeat as Australia rode on skipper Michael Clarke’s monumental unbeaten 329 and Michael Hussey’s 150 to tighten the noose around the visitors in the second cricket Test here today.

With a mammoth first innings total of 659 for 4 declared, Australia had India on the mat at 114 for two on the third day which saw Clarke putting team ahead of personal milestone.

The left-hander looked good to surpass Brian Lara’s record individual score of 400 but chose to declare the innings unbeaten at 329 after Hussey completed his 150 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

He also chose not to go ahead of the legendary Don Bradman’s score of 334 like another former Australian captain Mark Taylor, who had remained unbeaten at 334.

Clarke’s scintillating knock left India with the daunting task of batting out two full days, which raises the possibility of an innings defeat for them in the match. They had lost the first Test in Melbourne by 122 runs.

Opener Virender Sehwag (4) and an uncertain Rahul Dravid (29) were cooling their heels in the pavilion, leaving Gautam Gambhir (68) and Sachin Tendulkar (8) to fight.

The visitors batted for 41 overs and nearly half the day after slogging it out on the field.

Gambhir has so far batted for three hours and struck nine fours off 124 balls. Tendulkar’s grim 8 was made in over an hour’s batting and he faced 42 balls.

Earlier, Australia continued their firm grip on the match by stretching their overnight score of 482 for 4 to 659 an hour after lunch without losing a single wicket.

Michael Hussey, overnight 55, remained unbeaten on 150 but the glory of the day belonged to Clarke who was left unconquered on 329, the highest score ever made at the SCG, which is hosting its 100th Test.

Hussey reached his century before lunch but Clarke had to wait till resumption to get to his triple century. The Australian captain, overnight 251, was slow to get off the blocks and had added only 42 runs by lunch as only 13 runs came off his bat in the first hour.

Still, Australia were past 500 runs in the first hour, a feat they had done nearly 22 months and 17 Tests ago — against New Zealand at Seddon Park in Hamilton in March 2010.

All along, landmarks kept falling like nine pins against Clarke’s name. When he had added seven runs to his overnight total, he overtook Ricky Ponting as the highest scorer ever against India. Ponting had made 257 in the 1999-2000 Test at Melbourne.

Clarke swept off-spinner Ashwin to square leg fence through a packed onside field to move to 280 which took him past 277 that West Indian legend Brian Lara made at this venue in a 1992-93 series.

Clarke stroked Ishant Sharma through the covers to become the highest scorer at the SCG, going past the 287 which R E Foster of England made in a 1903-04 series just a few minutes before the lunch interval.

Clarke cut another four in the same over, dangerously close to VVS Laxman at slips, to move to within seven runs of his triple century. Hussey had reached his own hundred, his 16th in his 68th Test, and was unbeaten on 111 at lunch.

The pair raised the 200 for the stand when Hussey back cut Umesh Yadav crisply past the point boundary. It took 206 minutes and 307 balls for the 200-run stand.

By lunch, the two had put on 258 runs for the fifth wicket and the score read 583 for 4.

On resumption, Clarke reached the all-important landmark when he clipped Ishant Sharma to midwicket fence.

The two were still going strong when the declaration arrived as soon as Hussey reached his 150. Clarke was unbeaten on 329 at the other end and Australia had stretched their lead to 468 runs.

Clarke’s score is the fourth highest score by an Australian in Test cricket, behind Matthew Hayden (380), Sir Donald Bradman (334) and Mark Taylor (334). This was the 25th instance of a triple century in Test cricket. Only Bradman, Brian Lara, Virender Sehwag and Chris Gayle are the four batsmen who have hit triple century twice in Tests.

That makes Clarke only the 21st batsman in game’s annals to crack the code of a triple century.

SCORECARD

India (Ist Innings): 191

Australia (Ist Innings): David Warner c Tendulkar b Zaheer 8, Ed Cowan lbw b Zaheer 16, Shaun Marsh c Laxman b Zaheer 0, Ricky Ponting c Tendulkar b Ishant Sharma 134, Michael Clarke batting 329, Michael Hussey batting 150. Extras: (B-2, LB-13, W-4, NB-3) 22. Total: (for 4 wkts decl in 163 overs) 659. Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-8, 3-37, 4-325. Bowling: Zaheer Khan 31-4-122-3, Umesh Yadav 24-2-123-0, Ishant Sharma 33-2-144-1, Ravichandran Ashwin 44-5-157-0, Virender Sehwag 23-1-75-0, Virat Kohli 8-0-23-0.

India 2nd Innings: Gautam Gambhir batting 68, Virender Sehwag c Warner b Hilfenhaus 4, Rahul Dravid b Hilfenhaus 29, Sachin Tendulkar batting 8. Extras: (LB-3, W-1, NB-1) 5. Total: (for 2 wickets in 41 overs) 114. Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-100. Bowling: James Pattinson 12-1-40-0, Ben Hilfenhaus 16-6-37-2, Peter Siddle 11-7-23-0, Nathan Lyon 2-0-11-0.

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