Gautam Gambhir leads India's reply on day three at the SCG

India batsman Gautam Gambhir in action during his unbeaten knock of 68 on day three of the second Test against Australia Getty Images

Sydney: Jan 5, 2011

A hapless India faced the prospect of another humiliating defeat as Australia rode on skipper Michael Clarke’s maiden triple hundred and Michael Hussey’s 150 to score a mammoth first innings total of 659 for 4 declared and take complete command of the second cricket Test on Thursday.

At stumps on the third day, India were trailing by 354 runs after losing a couple of wickets at the Sydney Cricket Ground. India face the daunting task of batting out two full days, which raises the possibility of an innings defeat in the match.

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 were 114 for 2 in their second dig in the 41 overs and nearly half the day of batting they got.

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.

For records, this is after 95 Tests that an Australian has thrashed a triple century. Matthew Hayden was the last one to do so — a total of 380 against Zimbabwe at WACA, Perth in 2003.

In all, Clarke batted for 617 minutes and hit 39 fours and a six from 468 balls. Hussey batted for 312 minutes and 253 balls and smashed 16 fours and a six.

India began on a familiar dismal note when Sehwag cut an ordinary delivery from Ben Hilfenhaus to point where David Warner took a wonderful acrobatic catch.

But Gambhir was looking in fine nick as he hit a few glorious strokes in his 39 before tea. In the very first over itself, bowled by James Pattinson, he thrashed two cuts through point for boundaries.

He then twice drove Peter Siddle in succession to cover boundary. It was followed by a straight drive off Siddle which he executed with utmost aplomb.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon, in his second over, the final one before tea, was hit for two fours by Gambhir — both slammed through the cover region as India took the tea at 53 for 1.

Gambhir duly reached his half century in the final session, having taken only 54 balls and hitting eight fours.

Dravid, at the other end, hit a few fine strokes on either side of the wicket but he did appear a man with more than one worry in his head.

The veteran batsman once dangerously inside edged a delivery past his stumps for four and then fell prey in now all too characteristic fashion in this series.

Dravid came forward to an off-cutter from Hilfenhaus and left a little gap between his bat and pad. It was enough for the ball to sneak through and hit the top of the middle stump.

Dravid batted for 102 minutes and 73 balls for his 29 runs and hit six fours. He put on 72 runs for the second wicket with Gambhir.

Gambhir and Tendulkar dropped anchor and were just intent to see through the day. Overs after overs passed without a run being added to the total.

Gambhir took a run after being run-less for 34 balls and Tendulkar went past his three runs through a streaky four only after defending 51 deliveries.

In the dying minutes of the game, Gambhir received a chance when he edged an easy catch towards the wicketkeeper but Brad Haddin just couldn’t lay his hands to the edge. James Pattinson was the aggrieved bowler for Australia.

Brief Scores: India 191 & 114 for 2(Gautam Gambhir 68*, Rahul Dravid 29; Ben Hilfenhaus 2 for 37) trail Australia 659 for 4 (Michael Clarke 329*, Michael Hussey 150*, Ricky Ponting 134; Zaheer Khan 3 for 122, Ishant Sharma 1 for 144) by 354 runs

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