ADELAIDE, Australia – Captains past and present — Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke — scored double tons and shared a record 386-run stand to give Australia the stranglehold after two days of the fourth and final test against India at the Adelaide Oval.
After Australia declared on 604-7, India struggled to 61-2 at stumps on Wednesday, still needing 343 runs to avoid the ignominy of following on.
Australia is well placed to push for a 4-0 series cleansweep following wins in the first three tests in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.
The 386-run fourth-wicket stand ranks fourth highest for Australia in all tests. Ponting scored 221 while Clarke made 210 runs.
India’s reply got off to the worst possible start, and lost stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag (18) and Rahul Dravid (1) in the space of five runs and slumped to 31-2.
Sehwag hit a return catch to fast bowler Peter Siddle off the leading edge, and Dravid was bowled off his elbow by swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus. It was the sixth time in seven innings Dravid has been bowled in this series.
Opener Gautham Gambhir, 30 not out, and Sachin Tendulkar, 12 not out, battled through the remaining 54 minutes to stumps and will resume on Thursday, with Tendulkar chasing his 100th international century, having been stuck on 99 since last March.
The Ponting-Clarke unison left India despirited and physically drained, with the tourists toiling in the field under a harsh sun for over 10 hours as the Australian pair effectively put the game out of India’s reach.
Ponting and Clarke began where they left off, resuming at 335-5, and soon registered the highest stand for any wicket in a test at the Adelaide Oval, surpassing the 341 run stand set by South Africa’s Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock against Bob Simpson’s Australia in 1963/64.
Ponting was happy to play second fiddle to Clarke as the current captain dominated the fourth wicket partnership.
Clarke reached his double ton before Ponting and lunch, but fell to the first ball he faced after the break — bowled by swing bowler Umesh Yadav for 210 runs. By coincidence, it was the 210th time a batsman had scored 210 runs or more in test cricket.
The stand fell just two runs short of Australia’s highest fourth wicket stand against any country — 388 between Bill Ponsford and Don Bradman against England at Headingley in 1934.
Ponting reached his sixth double century of his 162-test career by majestically pulling Yadav to the mid wicket boundary for his 21st four.
India, buoyed by Clarke’s dismissal, took three more wickets in the hour after lunch including a tired Ponting caught on the square leg boundary by Tendulkar off Zaheer Khan (2-96).
Ponting and Clarke had come together with Australia in a spot of bother at 84-3, and decisively turned the balance of the match over the next 6-1/2 hours of play. It was the second giant partnership the two had compiled in this series, having put on 288 in the second test in Sydney, which Australia won by an innings and 68 runs.
Clarke hit a six and 26 boundaries and took his series tally to 589 runs (average 147.25) including a career-best 329 in Sydney.
Clarke became the only the third player in test history and the first captain to score a double hundred and a triple century in the same series, after Englishman Walter Hammond and Bradman.
“It’s very special,” Clarke said when told. “There’s no doubt about it.
“One thing I’ve not really bothered about is statistics and records. It’s about playing the game and do whatever you can to help your team win. If records come along like that it’s very special.
Clarke said taking two Indian wickets was important, given this pitch followed the standard Adelaide model of providing very little for bowlers.
“The positive is to score some more runs and to have 600 runs on the board. The other side is, it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work to take 20 wickets on that wicket.”
“Hopefully we’ll see some deterioration (of the wicket) on day four and five. There has been a couple of balls that kept a little bit low. It’s as good a batting wicket you’re going to get. We’re in for a good work out.”
Ponting defied India for 8 1/2 hours and survived catches on 186 and 215. Ponting’s innings was punctuated with 21 fours hit off 404 balls.
After Clarke’s departure, Mike Hussey (25) shared a quick 50-run stand with Ponting before he was run out due to some quick reactions by Gambhir at silly point.
Brad Haddin (42 not out) and Ryan Harris, an unbeaten career-best 35 runs, put on 71 runs for the eighth wicket in quick time, with Harris hitting a six to take the score past 600, prompting the immediate declaration.