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Fallen faces, sunken hopes

Aussie skipper Clarke and Ponting grind the bowling to dust, leave India facing huge task. Rohit Bhaskar reports. Scorecard | Punter gets family support

india Updated: Jan 05, 2012 01:55 IST
Rohit Bhaskar

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. On Wednesday, it probably conveyed even more. Towards the close of play on the second day at the SCG, the camera zoomed on all eleven Indian players, one after the other, holding it for a few seconds. The expression on every face was the same. Glum, shattered looks all around. A glance at the scoreboard and you'd understand why.

A maiden double hundred by skipper Michael Clarke (251 n.o.) and a century from the blade of Ricky Ponting (134) after nearly two years without a Test ton saw the hosts plunder 366 runs off the hapless Indian bowlers, who in the 90 overs of play could manage just the lone wicket.

Australia ended the second day on 482 for 4, to stretch their overall lead to 291, leaving a wretched India with the gargantuan task to stave off another heavy defeat.

Momentum swings

Clarke and Ponting had swung the momentum back in Australia's favour after a wobbly start on Tuesday. The shift is almost irrevocable now.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/05-01-12-metro17d.jpg

Clarke, who started the day on 47, crossed his fifty off the first ball he faced. Ponting reached his half-century a few overs later with a spanking square cut off Ishant Sharma. Ponting then proceeded to put on a clinic of on-side batting, clipping anything on his pads, helped no doubt by the erratic Indian pacers. Ishant in particular was guilty of straying down the leg-side. Ponting and Clarke were toying with the bowling by now, matching each other shot for shot. After a couple of delightful Ponting boundaries, Clarke struck two imperious fours of his own as an Indian fightback looked increasingly unlikely.

Umesh Yadav, who interspersed his poor deliveries at MCG with wicket-taking ones, failed to get his line or length right. A fact illustrated in his figures, conceding over five runs per over. As the lunch break neared, the only question was which batsman would get to the three-figure mark first.

Eventually it was Clarke, who got his 18th Test hundred with a glorious cover drive in the final over before lunch.

Ponting, on 97, took a further four overs after lunch to end his 17-Test drought, with the chanciest of singles he's ever likely to take. Dabbing one to Zaheer Khan at mid-on, Ponting took off. An accurate throw from Zaheer would have tragically sent him back on 99. But on this day even lady luck smiled as Ponting plunged to reach the crease, dirtying his whites in the process. He took a few seconds to let it all sink in and took off his helmet as a gleaming smile lit up his face. He raised both arms to a crowd that stood and applauded for what seemed an eternity.

The record 288-run partnership between Ponting and Clarke, the highest fourth-wicket stand against India, ended when Ponting guided one to Sachin Tendulkar at point off Ishant. If India had nursed any hope of staging a comeback, it vanished the moment Mike Hussey faced his first ball. A wide, fuller delivery was dispatched past cover for a boundary.

Dropped chance
Clarke offered one chance, when on 182 he hit a ball straight back into Ishant’s hands. The lanky pacer failed to collect it. That rare lapse aside, Clarke stroked sublime cover drives to rack up his maiden double hundred.

Hussey continued to build on his match-winning second innings effort at the MCG. Clarke passed Doug Walters’ SCG record for an Australian batsman, 242, before ending the day unbeaten on 251.