Triple hundred at SCG's 100th Test

Still no 100th 100...Mike Hussey is about to snap up the catch offered by Sachin Tendulkar off the bowling of Michael Clarke.-AP

The 288-run partnership between Ricky Ponting, who made his first Test century in two years, and Michael Clarke knocked the fight out of India. Then came Michael Hussey with a vigorous 150 of his own. This partnership raised 334 before Clarke declared the innings closed on 659 for four. Over to S. Ram Mahesh.

The 100th Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground was a memorable one for Michael Clarke, the hometown boy, but the touring Indians will want to forget it in a hurry. Clarke, who became the first batsman to make a triple-hundred at the respected ground, took the game away from India, which looked like it might fight back after a first-innings collapse.

Bowled out for 191 on the first day after electing to bat, India, through Zaheer Khan, had reduced Australia to 37 for three when Clarke began a brazen counter-attack. He was fortunate to survive on the first evening, but fortune favours the brave — or the very fortunate.

The 288-run partnership between Ricky Ponting, who made his first Test century in two years, and the Australian captain knocked the fight out of India. Then came Michael Hussey with a vigorous 150 of his own. This partnership raised 334 before Clarke declared the innings closed on 659 for four. “I didn't have Don Bradman or Mark Taylor's score (334) in my head whatsoever,” said Clarke, asked why he stopped at 329. “It was about trying to get the team to a total I thought would be a good score to make a declaration, then have a crack this afternoon to get a couple of wickets. I think it is about putting the team first, that's why we play.

“What I love most about this game is seeing this team win. I've always been like that as a player and I'll be no different as a captain. If it was best for the team to continue batting I would have continued to bat.”

Clarke's innings grew from the hurried start into one of great control. He batted over 10 hours for his runs — never has he batted as long in any sort of cricket match. There was one chance, on 182, but it was a sharp one, a caught-and-bowled opportunity to Ishant Sharma, the only bowler who troubled Clarke for any reasonable period.

M. S. Dhoni's fields helped Ponting, Clarke and Hussey, for there were risk-free runs to be had. More could have been done instead of the resigned wait for a declaration. But the match was lost on the first day when India collapsed.

The conditions were better for batting than in Melbourne, but India's batsmen came a cropper against an Australian attack that struggled to find the consistency of the first Test but did just enough. Dhoni made a half-century, Sachin Tendulkar, 41, and Virender Sehwag, 30, but these were hardly the returns imagined when the toss was won. The wickets were shared, James Pattinson taking four, and Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus splitting six. India was much better second time around, making 400, but it wasn't even sufficient to make Australia bat again.

Gautam Gambhir and V. V. S. Laxman, key members of the Indian batting line-up, found much-needed runs. Tendulkar stayed in touch though he couldn't make his 100th hundred. R. Ashwin showed he can bat higher than No. 8 — and probably should. Hilfenhaus finished with five wickets, two of which, to Dravid and Laxman, were magnificent deliveries. But the match had long ceased being a contest by then. It was India's sixth successive away defeat, continuing a worrying trend first seen in England.

“If you see the last two series, our performance in England and now here, we didn't put enough runs on the board,” Dhoni said after the innings defeat. “It's important to take 20 wickets but you also need the cushion of extra runs. We haven't put enough runs. Even in England, not often we scored 300 runs. It doesn't allow bowlers to experiment a bit when the rival batsmen are set. They never got the cushion of those runs.”

Without this cushion, the bowler struggled with their execution. “If bowlers plan and execute those plans, it looks good,” said Dhoni.

“Once it starts to go wrong, it becomes very difficult. You need to bowl to your field. If the opposition have to score, they have to score through a particular field. Australian bowlers have looked to bowl on one side. Once a batsman gets set, they get it away from drive and play on the batsman's patience. Then it depends on who commits a mistake early.”

India made the mistakes in Sydney, but the captain chose to remain positive. “Difficult times can help you improve as an individual and as a skipper,” he said. “This will also help the team get strong. You might not see it in the results. But it will help.”

THE SCORES

Second Test, Sydney, January 3-6, 2012. Australia won by an innings and 68 runs.

India — 1st innings:G. Gambhir c Clarke b Pattinson 0; V. Sehwag c Haddin b Pattinson 30; R. Dravid c Cowan b Siddle 5; S. Tendulkar b Pattinson 41; V. V. S. Laxman c Marsh b Pattinson 2; V. Kohli c Haddin b Siddle 23; M. Dhoni (not out) 57; R. Ashwin c Clarke b Hilfenhaus 20; Zaheer Khan c Cowan b Hilfenhaus 0; Ishant Sharma c Cowan b Hilfenhaus 0; U. Yadav c Haddin b Siddle 0; Extras (b-3, lb-6, w-2, nb-2) 13. Total: 191.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-30, 3-55, 4-59, 5-96, 6-124, 7-178, 8-178, 9-186.

Australia bowling: Pattinson 14-3-43-4; Hilfenhaus 22-9-51-3; Siddle 13.3-3-55-3; Hussey 2-0-8-0; Lyon 8-0-25-0.

Australia — 1st innings: D. Warner c Tendulkar b Zaheer 8; E. Cowan lbw b Zaheer 16; S. Marsh c Laxman b Zaheer 0; R. Ponting c Tendulkar b Ishant 134; M. Clarke (not out) 329; M. Hussey (not out) 150; Extras (b-2, lb-13, w-4, nb-3) 22. Total (for four wkts., decl.) 659.

Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-8, 3-37, 4-325.

India bowling: Zaheer 31-4-122-3; Yadav 24-2-123-0; Ishant 33-2-144-1; Ashwin 44-5-157-0; Sehwag 23-1-75-0; Kohli 8-0-23-0.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir c Warner b Siddle 83; V. Sehwag c Warner b Hilfenhaus 4; R. Dravid b Hilfenhaus 29; S. Tendulkar c Hussey b Clarke 80; V. V. S. Laxman b Hilfenhaus 66; V. Kohli lbw b Pattinson 9; M. Dhoni c & b Hilfenhaus 2; R. Ashwin c Lyon b Hilfenhaus 62; Zaheer Khan c Marsh b Siddle 35; Ishant Sharma lbw b Lyon 11; U. Yadav (not out) 0; Extras (b-6, lb-3, w-2, nb-8) 19. Total: 400.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-100, 3-168, 4-271, 5-276, 6-286, 7-286, 8-342, 9-384.

Australia bowling: Pattinson 23-4-106-1; Hilfenhaus 32.5-8-106-5; Siddle 24-8-88-2; Lyon 20-2-64-1; Clarke 9-0-22-1; Hussey 2-0-5-0.