It was Test cricket at its best. Nobody was prepared for such a thriller, even those who’ve been raised on the classics between these two prized opponents.
In the wins at Eden Gardens and Adelaide, VVS Laxman was magical. After Mohali, he is a colossus. Injury made him just a number in the batting line-up in the first innings. In the second, he needed a runner. Yet, his will prevailed.
Rarely a non-century has been as invaluable as Laxman’s 73 on Monday.
All was this due to the generosity of a man who isn’t viewed fairly by most Indian fans. Ricky Ponting was judged as inflammatory in Sydney and he wasn’t seen as courteous in getting the then-BCCI chief down the podium after the Champions Trophy triumph in 2006.
In Mohali, he allowed Laxman a runner in both the innings. He had made a public pledge to restore the game’s dignity after the unsavoury episodes in recent times. The Australia skipper was as good as his word.
Ishant Sharma was no less heroic. Like Laxman, he too wasn’t in the best of health in the first innings. But he returned to put the skids under Australia in the second. What he did with the bat was almost fairytale. Australia would long wonder how India escaped the noose after being 124 for 8.
Still, this game was there for the taking for India. Some smart work in the field wouldn’t have allowed Australia to top the 400-run mark. While poised for a lead, the hosts actually ended up 23 runs behind the visitors.
The bowlers again got them in front before the top order crashed to leave their hopes hanging by the thread. This thread was all Laxman needed to do his Houdini act.
Luck too teased in the closing seconds when Pragyan Ojha could have been leg before wicket or run out off the same ball. But the Gods weren’t willing to come between a “Very Special Man” and his extraordinary task. The Mohali thriller has only emphasised why India-Australia cricket gets the top billing. TCM