August 8, 2010

Another Laxman special defies odds


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

V V S Laxman continues to be not only the most stylish batsman of the generation but his ability to come good in crisis makes be truly special. What a gem of a knock he played at P Sara Oval in Colombo to guide India to a comfortable victory in the end in the third and final Test.

Mind you the pitch was doing all sort of tricks and the Sri Lankans bowlers, as usual while taking on India, were not prepared to give an inch. The scenario had become even grimmer for the visitors when Sachin Tendulkar got out in the most unfamiliar of fashions, gloving a seemingly innocuous delivering going down leg, and Laxman was not fully fit.

The century partnership between Tendulkar and Laxman had put India on course of victory but the match had become wide open in the afternoon session of the final day and the hosts had more than a just a glimmer of hope running away with the Test series 2-0.

Suresh Raina, playing only his second Test, joined Laxman at the fall of Tendulkar’s wicket and it were still the early days of their stand when the latter broke down to the extent of needing the help of a runner.

Virender Sehwag, who was chiefly instrumental in putting India into a tight corner with a dreaded duck on the fourth evening, returned to the field to do the duties of a runner for Laxman, just having completed his half century.

The limping Laxman was in obvious discomfort when stroking the ball but he knew the significance of his wicket that prompted him to keep going despite the pains in various parts of his body.

He showed tremendous courage by hooking and pulling Lasith Malinga whenever the speedster pitched it short on or outside leg stump. He was not afraid to come forward to middle the ball on a track whose bounce could not be trusted from day one.

Laxman must have known that his departure from the scene would have opened the floodgates for Sri Lanka as the batting conditions would have been even tougher for a new batsman at the crease.

Only Mahendra Singh Dhoni was left padded up in the dressing room among the specialist batsmen and India could have lost the plot very quickly in the event of the fall of another wicket.

Laxman had the dual responsibility of not staying their in the middle but also knock off the runs in order to bring the target down before more hiccups. He played superbly all along and it was a treat to watch his covering driving against the spin duo of Suraj Randiv and Ajantha Mendis on the weary track. Not many batsmen in the world would have dared hitting so boldly.

Raina also deserved a special mention for having rotated the strike besides playing a few adventurous shots to take the pressure off Laxman, who got to his hundred with another brilliant flick.

Statistically it was Laxman’s first century in the fourth innings of a Test match but he has certainly played quite a few better knocks than this one in more demanding conditions in his illustrious career.


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