Tuesday, October 5, 2010

11 VVS performances from Laxman

( Writer is Chief Sub Editor in India Today Group Digital and IIMC alumnus)
In reverse-chronological order
73* vs Australia (Mohali, 2010)
India needed 92 runs when No. 10 Ishant Sharma --- taking injections for his injured knee --- joined Laxman, who was on painkillers for his back spasm and batting with a runner. On a tricky wicket against a hostile pace attack, defeat was two deliveries away. But Ishant blocked his end up while Laxman scorched boundaries through spread-out fields. An umpiring blunder nearly denied India, but it was Laxman’s day and the home team stole a one-wicket win.

56 & 103* vs Sri Lanka (Colombo, 2010)
India were 62-4 chasing 257. Suraj Randiv had taken four out four on a turning track. A 2-0 series loss seemed certain. Their No. 1 rank was also at stake. Laxman, batting with a back spasm and a runner, tamed Randiv and Mendis. With Tendulkar and then with Raina, he steered the game home, saved the series and India remained No. 1.

76 & 124 vs New Zealand (Napier, 2009)
Despite Dravid’s 83 and Laxman’s 76, India gave the hosts a massive 314-run first innings lead. Following on, they weren’t doing badly but needed to bat out the last day to save the game. Gambhir held one end up, scoring 137 off 436 balls, his slowest hundred. When VVS came out, India needed to bat out 69 overs. His 124 saved India the game, and India’s eventual 1-0 win is their first Test series win in New Zealand since 1968.

79 vs Australia (Perth, 2008)
For good reasons is this considered India’s greatest Test win. The unsavoury incidents of Sydney, injuries to key players and a quick wicket at Perth meant India were expected to be rolled over quickly for a 3-0 defeat. But first the batsmen and then the pace bowlers put India on the road to unlikely win. On Day 3, the game hinged on Laxman as he came in at 125-5, with a lead of 243. And he delivered. Adding 35 with Irfan Pathan, 75 with the off-colour Dhoni and 51 with RP Singh, Laxman gave India a huge 413 runs to defend. They went on to win. The rest is history.

73 vs South Africa (Johannesburg, 2006)
This performance was near-identical to Perth 2008. India, on the verge of their first win on South African soil, were doddering at 148-7 in the second innings. It was a quick wicket. All India needed was a Laxman fifty, and for a tail-ender to hold on. Zaheer (37) was Laxman’s aide. They added 70 till Laxman fell. On Day 4, India’s bowlers delivered the landmark win.

104 vs Sri Lanka (Ahmedabad, 2005)
97-5 is not the score the home team would want to be in on the first day of the deciding Test match. Laxman, renowned for batting with the tail, added 125 with Irfan Pathan, who made 82 batting at No. 8. Harbhajan took 7-62 and India grabbed a big lead, going on to win the Test by 259 runs, and the series 2-0.

69 vs Australia (Mumbai, 2004)
India had lost the series 0-2, and had pride to salvage in the final game at the Wankhede. The pitch was a minefield. India were bowled out on Day 1 for 104 but held Australia to 203. With the ball turning square, shooting along the surface, bouncing awkwardly, India were in for a tough time. With the openers gone cheaply, Laxman took on Australia’s rookie spinners and veteran pacers. His 69 proved to be the highest in the game. On the third evening, Australia, chasing 107, were shot out for 93.

148 & 32 vs Australia (Adelaide, 2003)
This game is remembered mostly for Rahul Dravid’s 231 and 72 which took India to a groundbreaking win. But it was Laxman, who set the game up with Dravid with a mammoth 303-run stand after India were 85-4 in response to Australia’s 556. In the second knock, his wristy flicks and drives soothed India’s tense nerves again as they chased down 233 for a win. But how often do we recall this match for Laxman’s effort instead of Dravid’s?

69 & 74 vs West Indies (Port of Spain, 2002)
India sniffed their first win in the Caribbean in 26 years. On an up-and-down wicket, they grabbed a 94-run lead but stumbled to 56-4 in the second knock. Ganguly and Laxman was all there was left. The Indian tail-end, suffering from a serious inferiority complex in this series, wasn’t expected to deliver. The duo added 149 of the finest runs after which, as expected, India collapsed from 205-4 to 218 all out. In the end, the 313-run target was just about enough for a historic win.

59 & 281 vs Australia (Kolkata, 2001)
You’ve heard this story before. India were 275 runs behind. Defeat was certain. With Dravid out of form, Ganguly promoted Laxman to No. 3. Then Dravid joined Laxman. They batted the whole of Day 4, adding 376 runs. Batting records fell. Then some more batting records fell. Suddenly, India had an outside chance. Hat-trick hero Harbhajan took six wickets, Tendulkar provided three, and India completed the most extraordinary win.  

51 vs South Africa (Ahmedabad, 1996)
When the 21-year-old Laxman walked out to bat on debut with the score on 82-4, little did he know this would be the sort of innings he would have to play many times for India. Trailing by 21 on a crumbling Motera wicket, India were struggling against Allan Donald, Fannie de Villiers and Paul Adams’ square turners. They were soon 124-7, and the hostile crowd started pelting the South Africans with rocks and vegetables. Laxman’s boundaries calmed them. His fifty on debut gave India just 170 to defend. With Srinath taking 6-21, South Africa folded for 105.

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