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Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting have prior form in shattering Indian spirits at the SCG. Four years ago, they conspired to steal victory during a mad quarter hour late on the fifth day, when Clarke was handed the ball by the captain Ponting and took three wickets in an over. This year, they tortured India more slowly, with a partnership that lasted the best part of six hours and all but ensured Australia could not lose the Test.
Of course, since Kolkata in 2001, nothing has ever been truly certain in Tests between these two countries. But the drought-breaking century from Ponting – his first in nearly two years – and Clarke’s maiden Test double-hundred steered Australia into the kind of position from which it would take a Kolkata-like comeback to rescue India. They would need something very, very special.
To cap it all off for Australia, Hussey joined in late in the day with some quick runs, including two consecutive fours followed by a six off R Ashwin. It was an immensely disheartening day for India, who could manage only one wicket throughout the day after 13 had fallen on the opening day. There were no-balls from the part-time offspinner Virender Sehwag, strange field placements from MS Dhoni and a general lack of spark, which was to be expected by the end of a long, hot day in the field.
In the first couple of overs of the morning, Dhoni had a man back at deep square leg when he needed to be on the attack, and later he removed all of his slips while Umesh Yadav was bowling, seemingly a concession that all he could do was try to slow the run scoring of Ponting and Clarke rather than try to get them out.
He can be rest assured that Clarke won’t be as defensive in the field when he gets his chance. Unfortunately for Dhoni, that might be a while off yet.
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