India trails Australia by 354 runs with two days to go in the second cricket Test after captain Michael Clarke’s record-setting triple century lifted the home team to a first-innings lead of 468 in Sydney.
Fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus removed Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid either side of the tea break as the touring team reached 114-2 in its second innings at stumps on day three.
Clarke was unbeaten on a career-best 329, the highest Test score at the Sydney Cricket Ground, when he earlier declared on 659-4 at the halfway point of the five-day match. Australia is seeking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-four series.
“It was really good to get as many runs as we did and to come out and get a couple of very important wickets sets up the Test match for a big day tomorrow,” Clarke, 30, said in a televised interview with Channel Nine.
Hilfenhaus put his team within eight wickets of the victory by having Sehwag caught by a diving David Warner at point and bowling Dravid with a delivery that sneaked through a gap between bat and pad.
Gautam Gambhir will resume day four on 68, with Sachin Tendulkar 8 not out as he seeks an unprecedented 100th century in international cricket. Tendulkar nearly played a Hilfenhaus delivery onto his stumps when on 3, while Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin let a catching chance off Gambhir go through his gloves with the batsman on 66.
Clarke earlier paired with Mike Hussey, who made 150 not out, to lift Australia to its highest total since July 2009, when it scored 674-6 declared against England in Cardiff, Wales.
Clarke’s 468-ball innings, which lasted 617 minutes and included 39 fours and one six, was the joint 14th-highest individual total in 135 years of elite Tests. Former West Indies batsman Brian Lara heads the list with 400 not out.
Clarke shared an unbroken 334-run partnership with Hussey after also putting on a 288-run stand with Ricky Ponting, who made 134 yesterday to end his two-year century drought.
Hussey became the third straight Australian batsman to reach triple figures in the match before lunch today, bringing up his 16th Test century off 188 balls with a single. He added another 50 runs to his tally before Clarke’s declaration.
“I thought it was the right time to get out and try to get a couple of important wickets like we did this afternoon,” Clarke said of his decision to end the innings. “The most important thing for me is to win this Test and I think we’ve given ourselves the best chance to do that.”
Clarke became the sixth Australian to hit a triple century when he struck a boundary after the interval. Only Matthew Hayden with 380, and Don Bradman and Mark Taylor with 334, have scored more runs for Australia in a Test innings.
“My goal today was to get past Ricky Ponting’s highest score which is 257,” Clarke added. “Once I got that it was then just about playing and trying to build some more runs and more momentum for the team. Fortunately I got to 300.”
After resuming at his overnight score of 251, Clarke bettered VVS Laxman’s 281 for 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.
Clarke moved to 289 with his 34th boundary to pass the previous highest individual score at the SCG of 287 by England’s Reginald Foster in December 1903. The ground is hosting its 100th Test match this week.
Australia won the opening match in Melbourne by 122 runs to end an eight-Test winless streak against India, which has never won a series in Australia.