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India 114/2 in pursuit of 468 to avoid Innings defeat in Sydney

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michael_clarkeAn unbeaten 329 from Michael Clarke was the highlight of Day 3 at the SCG as India failed to pick up a wicket allowing their gracious hosts to post a monstrous total of 659/4 declared. Michael Hussey's unbeaten effort of 150 slipped under the radar as all eyes were on Clarke as he galloped on towards his incredible achievement. When the captain finally decided he had enough runs to play with, India were left with the unenviable task of needing to score 468 runs to avoid an innings defeat. The visitors made their way to 114/2 at the close of play for the loss of Virender Sehwag (4) and Rahul Dravid (29). All eyes tomorrow will be on the legend, Sachin Tendulkar, who ended the day unbeaten on 8.

After two days of complete domination at the SCG, the hosts had mustered up an amazing 291 run first innings lead with still 6 wickets standing. With India well and truly under the cosh, the question was how many runs Australia wanted on the board before they would have another crack at an exhausted Indian unit.

Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey were rather conservative in the first hour on day 3 scoring just 37 runs during that period against a very spread out field. The Indian bowlers were intent on bowling on one side of the wicket and keeping the runs down to a minimum. Clarke was surprisingly subdued in the first hour, setting himself up for what looked like an inevitable triple hundred, while Hussey kept working the ball into the gaps diligently, nudging his way to a well compiled century.

Both players stroked the ball freely after drinks and began to up the ante. The partnership went past the 200 run mark at a healthy rate of 4.5 an over giving the Indian bowlers no respite, following up on the massive stand between Ponting and Clarke. Hussey got a well deserved 100 off just 188 balls and helped the home side drive home the advantage. Australia played through yet another session without losing a wicket, having added 101 runs and stretching the lead to 392 at lunch on day 3.

Australia piled on the runs in what was probably the most ideal situation to bat in. Michael Clarke stroked a boundary down the ground off Ishant Sharma straight after lunch before flicking one through mid-wicket to get to a fantastic triple hundred, the first by an Australian captain in Australia. Hussey too milked the bowling on his way to 150. Clarke then made an extremely pro-active declaration, a rare one at that, especially while he himself was within sight of what may have been a record breaking quadruple century. Australia declared their innings closed having made a deflating 659/4 with a huge lead of 468 in the bag.

India having been on the field for almost two full days, got off to a decent start with Gambhir starting positively and playing with the intent to score as opposed to playing for survival. But India were dealt a body blow when the flamboyant Virender Sehwag cut one from Ben Hilfenhaus through the point region where David Warner pulled off a spectacular catch to dismiss the danger man. The good news from India's point of view was the possible return to form of their once Mr.Consistent, Gautam Gambhir, who rolled along comfortable to an unbeaten 39 at tea, dealing severely with anything slightly loose on offer. India were 53/1 in their second innings at the interval, still a massive 415 runs behind.

Gambhir finally gave the Australian public a glimpse of his immense talent as he raced away to his half century shortly after Tea, getting to the milestone off just 54 deliveries. While his work was far from done, the little left-hander did give the Indian dressing room hope of pulling off a miracle.

Gambhir and Dravid made solid progress after Tea, taking the score along to exactly 100 before Hilfenhaus affected the first breakthrough of the session, bowling Dravid for 29, getting the ball to jag back into him and bowling him through the gate.

Tendulkar came out to replace Dravid and decided that discretion was the better part of valour. The legendary batsman and Gambhir picked an end each and in a rather spectacular end to the session failed to score a run off the bat between the third ball of the 29th over and 5th ball of the 39th. The following delivery, Tendulkar had a bit of a scare, surviving an inside edge off Hilfenhaus which raced to the boundary. In the very next over Gautam Gambhir was given a life when Brad Haddin dropped a sharp catch off Pattinson as the Indian dressing room breathed a collective sigh of relief.

India survived that tough final period to ride into Day 4, 354 runs still behind, but perhaps crucially with 8 wickets in hand. The visitors will take heart from the fact that only three wickets have fallen on the last couple of days, and this pitch is still very good for batting. However, it will take a near miracle for them to salvage a draw from this game. 

Teams:

Australia:·Ed Cowan, D Warner, S Marsh, R Ponting, M Clarke, M Hussey, B Haddin, J Pattinson, P Siddle, N Lyon, B Hilfenhaus

India: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, R Dravid, S Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, V Kohli, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, I Sharma, U Yadav

Mini Scorecard:

India 1st Innings 191 all out (59.3 overs)
S Tendulkar 41 (89) J Pattinson 4/43
MS Dhoni 57* (77) P Siddle 3/55

Australia 1st Innings 659/4 decl (163 overs)
M Clarke 329*(468) Z Khan 3/122
M Hussey 150* (253) I Sharma 1/144

India 2nd Innings 114/2 (41 overs)
G Gambhir 68* (124) B Hilfenhaus 2/37
R Dravid 29 (73)

File Photograph Copyright:·Roy Allen