SYDNEY, Jan 5 (IANS): A landmark triple century by Australian captain Michael Clarke on the third day Thursday has left India with an improbable task of saving the second cricket Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here.
At stumps, India were 114 for two, still 354 runs behind Australia, with Gautam Gambhir (68) and Sachin Tendulkar (8) at the crease.
Australian fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus (2-37) removed Virender Sehwag (4) with David Warner taking an acrobatic catch at point and then rattled the defence of Rahul Dravid (29), who was bowled for the third time in the series.
Gambhir found back his form with an aggressive innings and got a reprieve when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin dropped him on 66 off James Pattinson just before the close.
With two days in hand and a huge lead, Australia are comfortably placed to take a 2-0 lead in the quest for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, thanks to a selfless 329 from Clarke, who took the bold decision of declaring the first innings at a mammoth 659 for four. Mike Hussey became the third centurion of the innings with 150 not out. Clarke and Hussey stitched a record fifth-wicket stand of 334 runs as Australia declared their innings an hour after lunch.
Clarke's superb knock lasted 617 minutes, featured 468 balls, 39 boundaries and a six while Hussey faced 253 balls, hit 16 fours and a six during his 312 minutes innings. It was indeed a tough day for the Indian bowlers as Zaheer Khan (3-122), Umesh Yadav (0-123) and Ishant Sharma (1-144) failed to make any impact on a flat pitch.
Clarke became the first cricketer to score a triple century at the SCG, which is hosting its 100th Test match. Clarke was five runs shy of Mark Taylor and Don Bradman's 334 when he selflessly declared the Australian innings. Taylor, who scored 334 not out against Pakistan in Peshawar in 1998-99, had declared the innings as a mark of respect not wanting to surpass Bradman.
Clarke got his maiden triple century just after lunch with a trademark flick off his pads off Ishant. Clarke dropped his bat after scoring the run and punched the air in delight. He then picked up his bat and pointed to the McGrath Foundation sticker earning a standing ovation from the SCG crowd that also included Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Australia resumed the day at 482 for four and the two batsmen were in no hurry. Both Clarke and Hussey took their own time to find their way as Australia reached 583 at lunch.
Clarke surpassed Englishman Reg Foster's 287 at the SCG in 1903-04, with a drive forward of point for four. Hussey also joined the party and brought up his 16th Test century just before lunch off part-time off-spinner Virender Sehwag.
Clarke has now passed V.V.S. Laxman (281) to become the highest run scorer in Tests between Australia and India.