SYDNEY, Australia, January 5 – Triple centurion Michael Clarke put team interests ahead of personal glory as Australia moved towards a crushing win over India in the second Test in Sydney on Thursday.
Captain Clarke, unbeaten on 329, declared Australia’s first innings closed at 659 for four to press for victory despite various individual milestones beckoning.
After building a massive 468-run lead, Clarke called a halt to the onslaught to give his attack seven and a half sessions to bowl India out.
He was rewarded with the key wickets of Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid as the tourists dug in to save going 2-0 down in the four-Test series.
India, who have never won a Test series in Australia, reached third day stumps at 114 for two, 354 behind, with Gautam Gambhir on 68 and Sachin Tendulkar eight.
The tourists had an early stumble when big-hitter Sehwag was brilliantly plucked from the air by the athletic David Warner at point off Ben Hilfenhaus for four.
Dravid’s reputation as “The Wall” took another hit when he was out bowled for the third time in the series, this time by Hilfenhaus for 29.
Gambhir was dropped by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin on 66 off James Pattinson in the penultimate over of the day.
Clarke’s selfless decision meant he passed up the chance to press on against an unthreatening Indian attack and have a shot at Matthew Hayden’s 380, the highest Test score by an Australian.
The 30-year-old now ranks fourth behind Hayden, Mark Taylor (334 not out) and Don Bradman (334) in the list of highest individual Australian Test scores.
“I didn’t think about it at all,” Clarke said. “I didn’t have Don Bradman and Mark Taylor’s score in my head whatsoever.
“It was about trying to get the team to a total which I thought was really good for a declaration and then get out there and try and have a crack and take a couple of wickets this afternoon. That’s all I was thinking about.”
Taylor earned national admiration in 1998 when as skipper he declared overnight on 334 against Pakistan in Peshawar rather than beat the legendary Bradman’s highest Test score.
In a world perspective, Clarke’s score ranks joint 14th among the highest Test innings behind West Indian world record holder Brian Lara’s 400.
Soon after batting partner Mike Hussey reached 150 and middle session drinks were due, Clarke called it quits, leaving his bowlers with plenty of time to bowl India out.
“I spoke to Huss (Hussey) just before we declared and I really wanted him to make 150, he deserved that, and once he got that and I thought once we have a 450-run lead it’s a good time to pull up stumps and try and get a couple of wickets tonight,” Clarke said.
Clarke’s supreme innings surpassed V.V.S. Laxman’s 281 as the highest individual score in Australia-India Tests and also overtook Bradman’s 270 as the best by an Australian captain in a home Test — a record that had stood since 1936.
The Australian skipper received a standing ovation from his hometown crowd when he eclipsed the highest score of 287 at the Sydney Cricket Ground — hosting its 100th Test match — registered by Englishman Reg Foster in 1903.
Clarke’s unbroken 334-run stand with Hussey was a record for any Australian wicket against India, eclipsing the 288 the captain set with Ricky Ponting for the fourth wicket on the previous day.
He was at the crease for 617 minutes and faced 468 balls, hitting 39 fours and one six.
Australia’s 659 for four total ranked second only to their 674 in India Tests at Adelaide in 1947-48.
Hussey’s innings took a back seat to Clarke’s prodigious knock. He batted for 312 minutes, scoring his runs off 253 balls with 16 fours and a six.
It was Hussey’s 16th century in his 68th Test match and followed his fighting 89 in last week’s opening Test in Melbourne.
“I said to Pup (Clarke) out in the middle I was honoured and privileged to be out there to witness and be a part of that,” Hussey said.