Laxman mania returns to haunt Oz
When pent-up emotions of five days of high-pressure cricket are balanced on a razor's edge, you know the fall will be hard, whether it is on the side of victory or defeat. Anand Vasu reportscricket Updated: Oct 06, 2010 00:33 IST
When pent-up emotions of five days of high-pressure cricket are balanced on a razor's edge, you know the fall will be hard, whether it is on the side of victory or defeat. That moment when time stands still came in the 59th over of the final day's play when substitute fielder Steve Smith picked up the ball in the point region, and with a chorus of lbw appeals playing in the background, fired the ball at the stumps. India needed 6 runs, Australia 1 wicket, and Smith had the chance to win his team a Test match without even being in the playing eleven, as a nervy Pragyan Ojha had jumped out of his crease. The ball missed the stumps and raced away for four overthrows, taking India closer to victory.
In that moment, the Australians fell hard, and India were lifted immeasurably, and soon sealed a one-wicket win that gave them an unimpeachable 1-0 lead in this series. The day belonged to VVS Laxman, whose chanceless 79-ball 73 closed all exit routes for the Australians, and Ishant Sharma, who safely negotiated 92 balls in an hour and three quarters.
When India began the final day still needing 161, much hope was pinned on Sachin Tendulkar, who made a bright enough start, essaying cover drives, flicks and on-drives that took off-spinner Nathan Hauritz out of the attack. Tendulkar had reached an assured 38 when he leaned in and cut a Doug Bollinger delivery that was too close to his body, only to present Mike Hussey at gully with a catch.
Before he could make a mark on the chase, Mahendra Singh Dhoni got into a mix up with Suresh Raina, who was Laxman's runner, to be found short of his crease by a 35-yard direct hit from Ben Hilfenhaus.
While Laxman set himself up for a characteristically grand finish, not merely defying the bowlers, but attacking the short ball with the pull, something no other India batsman did, the edifice crumbled at the other end. At 124 for 8, India, not for the first time in the match, had allowed the game to slip away from them.
But Laxman and Ishant, once together were inseparable for 81 runs, steadily pushing India towards an unlikely win. Even when an umpiring error sent Ishant packing, Laxman serenely lorded over the bowlers, inspiring last man Ojha to provide support. When the winning runs came, Australia were vanquished, but they could hold their heads high.
If proof was needed that this Australia team does not have the aura of those that preceded it, this Test match provided it. They did their very best, but it was still not good enough, and their old nemesis Laxman had the last laugh.