Australia captain Michael Clarke hit a career-best 251 not out and predecessor Ricky Ponting ended a two-year century drought to lift their team to a 291-run first- innings lead over India in the second cricket Test.
Clarke batted through the second day to amass the highest score by an Australian at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with Mike Hussey 55 not out at stumps. Ponting made 134 after earlier scampering a single for his first century in 34 Test innings.
Clarke and Ponting, who resumed today with the total at 116-3, shared a record 288-run partnership to help Australia rack up 482-4 in reply to India’s 191 as the home team seeks a 2-0 lead in the best-of-four contest.
“It’s a nice start to 2012,” Clarke told reporters. “The team is in a wonderful position at the moment, but the wicket has flattened out a lot so the most important thing for us is making sure there is enough time in the game to give ourselves a chance to bowl India out. We’re a long way from being 2-0 up.”
The fourth-wicket stand by Clarke and Ponting, which began with their team struggling at 37-3 yesterday, was Australia’s highest partnership in elite Tests against India, eclipsing the 239 by Ponting and Steve Waugh in Adelaide in 1999.
The stand ended four overs before tea when Ponting, 37, cut an Ishant Sharma delivery to Sachin Tendulkar at point.
Clarke then shared an unbroken 157-run stand with Hussey, receiving his second standing ovation of the day when he brought up his first double-century in 78 Test matches. He struck two consecutive boundaries to pass Doug Walters’s Australian-record score of 242 at the SCG, which is staging its 100th Test match this week.
“It’s fantastic to have a score like I do but if you don’t win the Test match it means nothing,” added Clarke, who struck 31 fours and a six in his unbeaten 342-ball innings. “What makes me proud is that I batted the whole day.”
The 30-year-old Clarke earlier reached three figures in the last over before the lunch break, bringing up his 18th Test century by driving Ishant to the boundary off the first ball.
Clarke kissed his helmet and waved his bat in the air after scoring his fourth Test century since taking over as captain in March. He then kept the strike for the rest of the over, leaving Ponting on 97 and having to wait 40 minutes for the chance to score a hundred for the first time since hitting 209 against Pakistan in mid-January 2010.
Ponting clipped two runs off Zaheer Khan to move to 99 and reached his 40th Test century 14 balls later with a single. Television replays showed a direct hit from Zaheer’s throw from mid-on would have run out the diving Ponting.
After picking himself up from the turf and dusting himself down, Ponting raised both arms above his soiled torso to a standing ovation from the crowd at the SCG.
“I know that I was probably out by two yards if the ball hit the stumps,” Ponting, who struck 14 fours in his 225-ball innings, told reporters. “I got up and my shirt was pretty much destroyed, my grill was pressed against my face and I was spitting out bits of the wicket so I could try and smile.”
Clarke and Ponting had come together yesterday after fast bowlers took all 13 wickets to fall on the opening day.
James Pattinson led Australia with figures of 4-43, while Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle each took three wickets as India failed to reach 200 for the second straight innings after slumping to 169 all out in the series opener in Melbourne.
Australia won the first match by 122 runs to end an eight- Test winless streak against India going back to January 2008.
India, which holds the Border-Gavaskar Trophy contested by the teams after winning its last two home Test series against the Australians, has never won a series in Australia since it began touring there in 1947.
“We all felt it was important to repay the bowlers after they bowled so well,” said Ponting. “We’re setting this game up nicely at the moment and hopefully we can have another good day.”
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