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Sublime Laxman lights up Sydney

cricket Updated: Jan 03, 2008 19:35 IST

Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Sydney and VVS Laxman go together. It was one of those days when everything went right for the middle-order batsman as he painted his way to a majestic hundred on Day 2 of the 2nd Test. India wobbled after his heroics, but managed to position themselves at 216/3 at Stumps. The day clearly belonged to the wristy Hyderabadi as he brought up his fifth century against the Aussies. At close, Ganguly was unbeaten on 21, while Tendulkar who showed some positive intent against Hogg, was not out on 9.

After facing the wrath of the umpires on Day 1, India went into the morning session of Day 2 with a hope of cleaning up the Aussie tail as quickly as possible. But that wasn't to be. The two overnight batsmen, Andrew Symonds and Brett Lee began from where they left off last evening as they helped their team move past 400 at a fairly quick pace.

Lee managed to score his fifty and soon after that became the first wicket of the morning. His resistence was finally broken by Kumble, who trapped him in front with one that just cut in from outside the off-stump and rapped him on the pad, right in front. Lee went for 59, but he did his job by helping Australia race past 400. Australia were 407/7 when Lee departed.

Mitchell Johnson then came into the crease with an intention of further frustrating the Indians and he didn't disappoint his captain by doing so. He helped his fellow Queenslander, Andrew Symonds get past his 150 and kept the Indians wilting under the charge as he took toll off the bowlers by smashing some powerful hits. Johnson's cameo of 28 came to an end when he tried to play a pull shot for the six. He went with the spin to Kumble, but could only find Sourav Ganguly at deep mid-wicket.

Australia's innings finally came to a close when Kumble produced one of his typical deliveries to a tailender to remove Stuart Clark for 0. Clark missed a straighter one from Kumble, which thudded onto the pad and this time Bucknor had no hesitations about the decision. The Aussies piled on 463, largely thanks to Symonds' unbeaten 162. India will have to bat through a very tricky period before lunch as they will look to negotiate the new ball.

In reply, the Indians carefully negotiated three tricky pre-lunch overs from Lee and Johnson, before umpires signalled the end of the session. India went into lunch with their openers intact and yet to register a run.

Just after lunch, India suffered their first hiccup in response when Brett Lee yorked through Wasim Jaffer's defences. It was bowled at sheer pace from Lee, close to 147 kmph, and the yorker tailed into Jaffer before it moved a touch away from the bat and crashed into the base of off-stump. Jaffer was all ends up, beaten for pace and that was absolutely unplayable. Lee set up Jaffer superbly before producing this jaffa of a delivery. India were 8/1 when Jaffer departed.

And then...VVS Laxman walked into bat at the SCG. He saw through some deliveries from Lee and Clark, but once he got his eyes in, his strokeplay was there to see. The timing was back, the wrists were moving and so were the feet. He upped the ante particularly against Mitchell Johnson with some scorching cover drives and flicks through mid-wicket. It was nothing short of domination against the Aussie pacemen.

Laxman raced to his fifty of just 43 balls over a run a ball and it was'nt power play but sheer artistry and the ability to place the ball in gaps. However, Laxman was lucky to survive as he was dropped on 45 and 77 by Gilchrist and going by the pace he has been in this innings, it proved very costly for the hosts.

Dravid, in the meanwhile was crawling at his own pace keeping one end tight and tied. But having been forced into the job as an opener, he did his job to perfection, by taking the shine off the ball. There were occasions when it seemed he got his touch back, especially the three boundaries he scored. History repeated itself as Dravid was unlucky to be caught off a no-ball by Ponting off Johnson as it happened at the MCG. But, thereafter, Laxman dominated the strike and it was a terrific counter-attack after Lee was swinging it early. Dravid finally scored a run off 39 balls, much to the satisfaction of the restless Aussie crowd.

His footwork against Hogg was assured and he dominated the left-arm spinner and it was a sheer delight to see some of his strokes against the spinner. Laxman's honeymoon against Australia continued as he raced to his century off 127 balls and it came with a flurry of boundaries. Dravid also reached his fifty, a hardworking effort from the "opener", scoring it off 158 balls.

Just as everyone thought that the Dravid-Laxman partnership was threatening to take the game away from the hosts, they struck. Dravid's defiant fifty came to an end when he edged one short and wide outside the off-stump. Dravid went on the backfoot and played away from his body, with the edge carrying comfortably to first slip. Hayden completed the catch and Dravid's vigilant knock came to an end. The duo were involved in yet another long-partnership, adding 171 runs for the second wicket. India were 183 for 2 when Dravid departed.

Laxman's soujourn then came to an end when he fell to Hogg after his magestic century. Hogg tossed the wrong one up outside the off stump, which drew Laxman forward into the drive. Laxman hit it in the air and Hussey at short cover made no mistake. Laxman's splendid Sydney sojourn continued with his fluent strokeplay, but came to an abrupt end at 109.

India lost its two set batsmen and it was time for Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar to take centerstage at the SCG. They saw through yet another uncomfortable period just before the end of play, by ensuring that they went unscathed.