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Matthew Hayden, Mark Taylor, Don Bradman, Michael Clarke. That is the list of the men with the highest Test scores for Australia after a day on which Clarke not only wrote himself into the record books but also declared early enough to give his side a strong chance to push for victory over India. Clarke ended Australia’s innings with his own score on 329, choosing neither to seek the glory of chasing down Brian Lara’s world-record 400, nor even Taylor’s iconic 334, the best score by an Australian Test captain.
Instead, he chose drinks in the middle session – the halfway point of the game – to declare Australia’s innings closed at 4 for 659. His partner, Michael Hussey, had just reached 150. His thinking as he and Hussey walked off to a standing ovation from the SCG crowd was clear: on a good pitch, Australia would need time to bowl India out, especially with the chance of rain on the fourth day. Personal milestones meant nothing. The team goal was all that mattered.
Although it was Hussey’s fifth Test century since the start of the Ashes last summer, he had also fallen for three golden ducks during his past nine innings. At no did India seriously look like breaking the partnership, although R Ashwin bowled an impressive, searching spell in the opening session. The action in the middle became so predictable that in the ABC radio commentary box Harsha Bhogle and Kerry O’Keeffe entertained listeners by challenging each other to eat the world’s hottest chilli. Meanwhile, in the Channel Nine box, Ian Healy quizzed Bill Lawry on pigeon diseases.
But all eyes were fixed on Clarke as he reached his triple-century, and when he declared less than an hour later. It was a captain’s innings in every way, just as he delivered in Cape Town against South Africa in November. Australia lost that Test. Clarke made sure they won’t lose this one.
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