India faced a gigantic battle to save the match following two early dismissals after Australia rode on double centuries by skipper Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting to declare at a mammoth 604 for seven in the fourth and final cricket Test here today.
India were at a shaky 61 for 2 in reply from the 21 overs possible after Australia declared their first innings about half an hour after tea on the second day.
Clarke,resuming on 140,made 210 and was out immediately after lunch when a Umesh Yadav delivery flicked his pads and crashed on to his stumps. Ponting departed much later for 221 when he pulled Zaheer Khan firmly but straight to Sachin Tendulkar at backward square leg fence.
The two put on 386 runs for the fourth wicket which is the second best ever by an Australian pair. Sir Don Bradman and Bill Ponsford put on 388 runs together against England at Headingley in 1934.
Replying to Australia’s monumental effort,Virender Sehwag (18) and Rahul Dravid (1) were the two early blows India suffered in their innings and neither the pitch nor the deliveries merited their dismissals.
The first ball of Peter Siddle was a low full toss on Sehwag’s leg stump. Sehwag aimed to play it on the onside but closed the face of his bat too early.
He thus miscued on the left of the bowler who somehow stuck his left hand out and caught it splendidly while still in his follow through.
Sehwag already had a slice of luck in his favour when he was dropped by Ed Cowan on five at the total 13 for no loss.
The opener had aimed to flick Hilfenhaus off his pads and the ball had gone in the air,low to Cowan’s left at midwicket but the fielder floored the chance.
Sehwag,in the short time that he was in,struck two off-side fours off Hilfenhaus and had just put on the highest opening stand with Gambhir of 26 runs when he fell in an astonishing manner.
Dravid,for the sixth time in the series,was bowled but this time it was a cruel turn for the star batsman. He played back to a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery which kicked from a length,hit him on the elbow and crashed on to his stumps.
Gambhir,who began with a steer through point off the first ball of the innings,was generally assured and hit two lovely cover drives off the front foot off Siddle.
Tendulkar was his usual serene self,flicking Hilfenhaus to the midwicket fence even though there were two short midwickets positioned specifically for it.
Earlier Australia,resuming at the overnight score of 335 for 3,batted till half an hour after tea before declaring their first innings on 604 for 7. In all they played 67 overs on the second day.
It was a Ponting-Clarke show yet again as they improved upon the best-ever partnership at Adelaide Oval which belonged to Graeme Pollock and Eddie Barlow of South Africa stand of 341 runs managed during the 1963-64 series.
The Australian captain took just 275 balls for his 210 runs though he occupied the crease for 380 minutes. Clarke smacked 26 fours and a six.
The big wicket of Ponting came the tourists way after the veteran batsman pulled Zaheer Khan ferociously but straight into the hands of Sachin Tendulkar at backward square leg boundary.
Ponting batted for 516 minutes and faced 404 balls for his 221 runs,hitting 21 fours in all.
This is his sixth double century in Test cricket,his third such mega knock against India.
Australia lost two more wickets in the middle session,those of Mike Hussey (25) and Peter Siddle (2),as Indians struck four times in the afternoon.
Hussey had put on 50 runs with Ponting for the fifth wicket before the pair was separated due to a rare piece of good work in the field by the Indians.
Hussey flicked a delivery of Ashwin on the onside which was interrupted at forward short leg by Gautam Gambhir who flicked the ball on to the stumps while the batsman was out of his crease.
Ashwin chipped in with another wicket when he had Peter Siddle completely misreading a doosra which flicked the outer edge of his bat on way to Wriddhaman Saha for the little wicketkeeper’s first victim in Test cricket.
Indians again ran into obstruction by the eighth-wicket pair of Brad Haddin (42) and Ryan Harris (35) who put on 71 runs before the closure was applied.
Just before declaration came,Harris pulled Umesh Yadav for a massive six to fine leg for his highest score in Test cricket.
For the Indians,Ashwin took 3 for 194 from his 53 overs while Zaheer dismissed 2 for 96 runs.
Earlier in the morning session,Clarke and Ponting treated the Indian bowlers with disdain with a flurry of boundaries.
Every possible stroke was seen in the morning as Clarke and Ponting pulled,hooked,drove,clipped and cut Indian pacers to boundaries. By the time the first hour was up,Australia had gathered 65 runs from 14 overs.
Pacer Ishant Sharma was removed after his first three overs cost 20 runs but Umesh Yadav was no less profligate.
Clarke was the first to reach his double century a clip for two on the onside brought the milestone up for the Australian captain. It took him 361 minutes and 255 balls and 25 fours and a six.
This is turning out to be a mammoth series for Clarke who hit an unbeaten 329 in the second Test in Sydney earlier this month.