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Laxman, Gambhir hit double tons

If Gautam Gambhir's maiden double hundred laid the foundation, VVS Laxman's second double, his sixth century against Australia, took India to a position from which they cannot lose this game, reports Anand Vasu.Spl: Big game hunting | Full ScoreCard | See pics

cricket Updated: Oct 31, 2008 00:54 IST
Anand Vasu

If Gautam Gambhir's maiden double hundred laid the foundation, VVS Laxman's second double, his sixth century against Australia, took India to a position from which they cannot lose this game.

Australia, who adopted a remarkably defensive approach on the field, will now have to adopt an aggressive strategy with the bat if they are to fight back on a pitch that is already taking encouraging turn from the rough created by the bowlers' footmarks. Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich put on 50 in quick time, but in the light of India's first-innings 613 for 7 declared, there was still plenty of work to do.

Australia pride themselves at coming into matches with only victory on their minds and their first task will be to accept that the resources at their disposal have left them in a position where the best possible, if unlikely, outcome for them is a draw. That said, stonewalling won't get them far for already there are signs of variable bounce and both India's leg spinners turned the ball appreciably.

India's bowlers now have to take this game forward, having been allowed the luxury of putting their feet up for nearly two days and being treated to some very fine batting. Gambhir, resuming on 149, brought up his 150 in only the second over of the day and needed no time to set a good pace.

With the field well spread out and the bowlers bowling well wide of the stumps, albeit still at a length too short to allow any swing, both batsmen had to get their shot selection just right. Gambhir was in no trouble at all in his stay at the crease and when he worked Brett Lee off his pads for a single to get to 200, the Delhi crowd roared in appreciation.

Just when the Gambhir-Laxman partnership closed in on 300 - Laxman already has three such associations against Australia - Gambhir fell, against the run of play. Playing a gentle glide to a shortish ball from Shane Watson, Gambhir directed the ball to the stumps via thigh, having spent 550 minutes at the crease for 206.

By then Laxman had comfortably brought up his hundred, the only surprising thing about the landmark being the celebration, with Laxman rolling his left-arm over in the direction of the dressing-room, in a sign to Zaheer Khan. "It's a secret between Zaheer and me, and I'd like it to stay that way," Laxman would say in explanation later on.

Laxman seems to have not just an inordinate amount of time to play his shots, but equally reserves of concentration that inevitably come to the fore against Australia. Michael Atherton, the former England captain, once said that a genius was not someone who merely did something better than others but someone who did things which others did not even conceive of doing.

If you apply that definition, then Laxman's strokeplay is a thing of genius. A perfect example came in the 150th over, when Laxman was well set, on 168. The first delivery, from Mitchell Johnson, was taken from outside the off and whipped past mid-on. The very next, on a similar line, was steered wide of slip with the bat face opened. When a batsman can play two completely different strokes to balls that were essentially similar in line and length, it makes life difficult for bowlers and the opposing captain.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (27), Kumble (45) and Khan (28 not out) all kept Laxman good company and India's score had burgeoned to 613 when Laxman lifted the ball over mid-on to being up his double-century and the declaration.

Australia's openers put on their biggest stand of the series, but they can draw little comfort from this. Batsmen who arrive at the crease against spin will find the going extremely difficult first up, and India will believe they are only one wicket away from making serious inroads.