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Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting's record partnership had deflated India and then Australia's bowlers got into the act too as the visitors lost two wickets on the second day of the fourth and final Test at the Adelaide Oval today.
Clarke and Ponting's 386-run partnership helped Australia declare their first innings at 604 for 7, and at stumps India was 61-2 with Gautam Gambhir on 30 and Sachin Tendulkar 12 not out. Virender Sehwag (18) and Rahul Dravid (1) were the two Indian batsmen to lose their wickets to Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus respectively.
Sehwag was given a life in the second over of India's innings when Ed Cowan failed to hold on to a catch at midwicket off Hilfenhaus' bowling. Sehwag (18), who was on 5 at the time, didn't make the most of his fortune, and was soon after brilliantly caught by Siddle off his own bowling. Dravid was then clean bowled for the sixth time in the series, though he can consider himself a tad unfortunate. Dravid was slightly late in moving forward to a length delivery from Ben Hilfenhaus and the ball hit him near his elbow guard before crashing on to the stumps. The Australian pacers stuck to a tight line and length and Nathan Lyon, who used to be a groundsman at the ground, did his bit for the day as well in the five overs he bowled. Lyon and the rest of the Australia's bowlers though could be tested if the Indian line-up puts up a fight.
Umesh Yadav got through Clarke's defence in the first over of the post-lunch session to finally give India a breakthrough after 94.4 overs. Clarke (210) and Ponting, who scored the sixth double century of his Test career soon after, added 386 runs for the fourth wicket. The pair set a new record for the highest partnership at the Adelaide Oval as they passed the 341 runs set by South Africa's Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock in 1964.
Clarke and Ponting also established a new partnership record for Tests between Australia and India as they eclipsed the 376-run stand that Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman added for the fifth wicket at the Eden Gardens in March 2001. They, however, fell only two runs short of the highest Australian fourth wicket partnership set by Don Bradman and Bill Ponsford against England in Leeds in 1934.
Clarke, who scored 329 not out in the second Test at Sydney has now racked up 589 runs in the series at an average of 147.25, while Ponting has 484 runs at 96.80.
Resuming on the overnight score of 335 for 3, Ponting and Clarke started off aggressively on another hot day in Adelaide hitting boundaries galore and also running well between the wickets even as India's bowlers struggled to string together a decent over. The bounce though was uneven with some deliveries not bouncing as much as expected, and this will cause concern in the Indian camp.
Ponting and Clarke were both particularly harsh on anything pitched short and also used their feet well against India's lone spinner R Ashwin. The pair were concentration personified during their mammoth partnership and scored 134 runs in the first session on the second day.
India's bowlers didn't bowl too many wicket-taking deliveries in the first session, but the few they did failed to break the Ponting and Clarke partnership. Ponting had a near shave off Ishant Sharma in the second over of the day when the pacer got the former Australia captain to get an outside edge, but it flew between slips and gully enroute to the boundary. Later in the session, Ishant put down a regulation caught and bowled chance offered by Ponting. Ishant has been ruing that luck hasn't gone his way in the series, but when he had the chance, he failed to grab it.
Clarke just about managed to fend off a brute of a delivery from Yadav and the outside edge just flew over the gully; and a couple of overs later, the Australia skipper almost chopped an Ashwin delivery back on to his stumps. These close shaves apart, Ponting and Clarke were in control for most part of their time in the middle and both got to their 150s with well-timed boundaries. Clarke got to his 200 just before lunch with a cracking boundary through extra cover off Ashwin.
The fight back
India put up a slightly improved bowling performance in the second session as they took four wickets with Australia adding 100 runs. Yadav clean bowled Clarke in the first of the post-lunch session, but by then the Australian skipper had 210 off 275 balls with 26 boundaries and a massive six. Ponting though got to his double centur yshortly after as he swatted a short delivery from Yadav to the boundary.
India have been sloppy in the field and grassed a fair number of catches in the series. So, when VVS Laxman failed to latch on to a catch offered by Ponting when he was on 215, it only reiterated that shoddy fielding and butter fingers ought to be one of the many points for India to mull over and improve on after the series.
But, Gambhir earned some points for India's fielding courtesy his fast hands while fielding at silly point. Mike Hussey (25) had played a delivery from Ashwin past silly point.
Gambhir though stretched out his right hand and lobbed the ball back to Saha who whipped off the bails before Hussey could regain his ground.
Laxman's dropped catch didn't prove too costly for India though as Ponting - 221 off 404 balls (516 minutes, 21x4) - was well caught by Tendulkar at deep midwicket off Zaheer's bowling. As a result, Ponting narrowly missed out on surpassing his personal best of 242 at the Adelaide Oval.
Ashwin then dismissed Siddle cheaply but Brad Haddin (42*) and Ryan Harris (35 not out) added 71 runs in 17 overs for the eighth wicket as Australia declared their first innings 30 minutes into the post-tea session.
Ashwin (3-194) was the most successful of India's bowlers, while Zaheer took two wickets and Yadav, who conceded 136 runs in 26 overs, chipped in with Clarke's wicket.
Ponting and Clarke score double centuries; India in strife
Clarke and Ponting's 386-run partnership helped Australia declare their first innings at 604 for 7, and at stumps India was 61-2 with Gautam Gambhir on 30 and Sachin Tendulkar 12 not out.By Akshay Iyer | Yahoo! Cricket – Wed 25 Jan, 2012 1:18 PM IST
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