Friday, 18 January, 2008

348 to go, again!

The heat at Madras was as energy sapping as it was on the first two days at Perth. If umpires were forced to call for drinks break after every 40 minutes at Perth, it was no different at Madras, the coastal humidity probably making it even worse. Indians were on a winning streak, having handed England a resounding defeat just two months ago. Against this background, Dean Jones battled bouts of cramps, dehydration and Indian spinners to score a courageous double century in the first test of 1986 series. When Kapil Dev’s scored a scintillating century, the match was headed to only one conclusion – a draw. But Alan Border’s sporting declaration in the second innings ensured that the match went into the record books as only the second ‘Tie’ in history of cricket. The target – 348 runs.

More than a decade later, Chennai was once again the stage for another outstanding match. It was India versus Australia again. Coincidentally, the first test of that series too! Sachin Tendulkar was caught Mark Taylor bowled Shane Warne after making just 4 runs in the first innings. Prior to the series, he had taken extra care to handle Warne’s leg spinners, even summoning leggie L Sivaramakrishnan to bowl at him in the nets. He wasn’t willing to let that effort go waste. What followed in the second innings was a brilliant counter attack, seldom seen on Indian soil. When Azharuddin declared the Indian innings close, there was only one result possible, unlike the 1986 test on the same ground. The target for Australians, once again 348 runs!

If the 1998 test at Chennai set the tone for long and hard fought battles between India and Australia, the Perth test has certainly lived up to that reputation, weaving its way through the numerous twists and turns. If the first day saw India demolishing the Australian top order, it also saw a terrific fight back from Symmonds and Gilchrist. If the second day belonged to Indian bowlers, then the Australian pace attack threatened briefly to make the third day their own, only to be thwarted by gutsy batting from VVS Laxman.

I am simply amazed by the number of times VVS Laxman has rescued India from a precarious position. We know how good a batsman he is, but often, some of his valuable innings like the one today, get eclipsed by his more dazzling ones. His cameo in the second innings of Adelaide test in 2003/04 series, his strokeful 69 in the farcical Mumbai test against Australia, when everyone else, save Sachin Tendulkar were struggling even to put bat on to the ball, the vital 73 runs against South Africa at Johannesburg have all been match winning efforts without quite grabbing the attention that they deserve. Even though he can rightfully claim a number 3 spot in Indian batting, to me he is more a joker in the pack. Shuffle him the way you want. He won’t disappoint.

As Ponting and Hussey resume their battle on day four, both teams know that history is in making, whatever the outcome. But having chopped 65 runs off their target, isn’t it another twist of fate that Australia needs exactly the same number of runs, 348, that made previous two contests so memorable?

14 comments:

scorpicity said...

This test series will be the last appearance on Australian soil for Laxman... he's making it count... way to go.

John said...

Laxman is a dude. Its true that as far as attritional batting goes, he has just put himself in the class of Dravid and Kallis. And he can do the tango as well.

Soulberry said...

I have an ueasy feeling that this game of 348 is going to end in a tie...one each for India and Australia along with one tied test.

Laxman was good...did his usual stuff at 6 without any fuss. Yet India might find itself a batting session or a session and quarter, short.

I hope I'm proved wrong.

That's the innings why I still remember Dean Jones...I've forgotten his one-day heroics.

Golandaaz said...

SB, I had the exact same feeling when I read the post but refrained from commenting. Ponting's gone and I am feeling a little better.

But in some ways this test will decide the fate of the future dominance of Australia. If they win they will probably start another phase of their dominance. If they win, perhaps it will be because they are on the decline

Cricket Guru said...

I never had any doubts once India secured a lead of over 300 runs. In theory, I could still be proved wrong, but having lost 5 wickets, Australia needs more than just miracle to pull this one off.

Welcome, John.

Soulberry said...

'Morning CG...Congratulations!

A bit bushed and have just reached home again. I had to attend a funeral at Agra yesterday. Have some recordings of the day's play on the compu, thanks to my son, which I'll see later.

Aw awiting your article on this signal achievement. :)

Cricket Guru said...

Hearty congrtulations to you SB, and to all Indian fans. :)

I will post something today evening.

Straight Point said...

yes CG...

it will be wonderful to get yor impressions of this great win...looking fwd to the post...

Samir Chopra said...

Its worth looking at what Laxman did on his test debut itself. His knock in the second innings at Ahmedabad ensured victory in a very low scoring test against RSA.

Cricket Guru said...

Thanks Sameer for pointing it out.

Like most match winning innings of VVS, that one got completely drowned in Sachin's master-stroke in using Srinath as the strike bowler in the fourth innings, when many thought spinners would do the job for India.

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