Triple centurion Michael Clarke put his team’s interests ahead of personal glory as Australia moved towards a crushing win over India in the second Test in Sydney.
The captain, unbeaten on 329, declared Australia’s first-innings 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 key wickets of Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid as the tourists dug in to avoid going 2-0 down in the four-Test series.
India, who have never won a Test series in Australia, ended day three at 114 for two, 354 behind, with Gautam Gambhir on 68 and Sachin Tendulkar on eight.
Clarke prioritises win
The right-handed batsman, who became only the sixth Australian to score a triple century, said the most important thing was to win the match.
“It feels pretty good, but it probably won’t sink in properly until we win the Test,” said Clarke. “I’m stoked to have managed to make 300-odd runs, but the most important thing is that we win and that was a big reason for my declaration.”
Clarke said the fatigue of batting for more than 10 hours was physically and mentally taxing.
“I’ve never batted that long in any form of the game in any team, so that was the hardest thing for me,” he said. “It’s a lot of stop-start, you stop for a break, you stop for drinks and you stop for the end of the day and then you have to start your innings again.”
However, the captain was wary of the hard work still required to clinch the match.
“It is going to be a huge challenge for us. There is not much there for the bowlers in the pitch. We are going to have to bowl a lot of overs and hang onto all our chances.”
Dravid hopes for inspiration
Meanwhile, Dravid urged an inspired performance from their stellar batting lineup to deny Australia victory.
“Who knows what can happen,” he said. “We’ve got some quality players who can bat long but it’s hard to think about two days from now right away. We need some inspiration, things haven’t worked out but there’s still time to go.”
Australia strike early
India had an early stumble when big-hitter Sehwag was brilliantly plucked from the air by the athletic David Warner off Ben Hilfenhaus.
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. Earlier, Hussey’s 16th Test century took a back seat to Clarke’s prodigious knock. The left-hander batted for 312 minutes, scoring his runs off 253 balls with 16 boundaries and a six.
“Who knows what can happen. We have got some quality players who can bat for long periods of time but it is hard to think about two days from now right away. We need some inspiration.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2012.