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Eight VVS Laxman classics vs Australia


VVS_Laxman_India_Australia_Test_CricketThere was an era in cricket, which began in the mid-90s, when Australia was the top team in the world. Their batsmen were attacking & impervious and bowlers equally deadly & miserly. Against them, a good knock with bat or an excellent spell with the ball was an achievement for players. 

Batsmen who succeeded against that Aussie bowling attack were highly regarded. There were few who showed resistance against Australian team and amongst those few was a very very special batsman, who not only resisted but became a nightmare for Australians. VVS Laxman was a natural stroke maker with blissful wristwork that made him look like an artist. 

Laxman has shown his class around the world but, unlike many others, Australia was his favourite opponent. He averaged 49.67 against them with 6 of his 17 international Test centuries coming against Australia. 

Let’s look at some of VVS Laxman’s classic knocks against the Aussies.

1. 95 (Kolkata, 1998)

The 2nd Test of Australia’s tour of India in 1998 was VVS Laxman’s first outing against Australia. Having made his debut in 1996, Laxman was just finding his feet in international cricket. In his first match against Aussies, he missed out on a hundred but that innings was special in many ways.

Laxman was asked to open and was solid in his innings of 95 against a quality bowling attack. He shared a brisk partnership of 191 runs with fellow opener Navjyot Singh Sidhu. That partnership set the tone of the match as India went on to put 633/5 on the board before declaring. India won the Test match by an innings and 219 runs. 

Two future captains of Australia, Steve Waugh & Ricky Ponting, were playing in that match. Little did they know that VVS Laxman was going to be a nightmare for them in the coming years.

2. 167 (Sydney, 2000)

It was VVS Laxman’s first tour of Australia. Though he debuted in 1996, Laxman was still finding it difficult to cement his place in the Indian team. Until this match, Laxman hadn’t scored a hundred, or even gotten close to his 95-run knock against Australia. Time was running out for him as other cricketers were ready to take his place. 

It was last match of the tour and his scores in the first 2 matches at Adelaide & Melbourne were 41 ,0, 5 and 1. India elected to bat first & Laxman, still opening the batting, got out for just 7 runs. India were bundled out for 150 and Australia scored a mammoth 552/5d. The 2nd innings was Laxman’s last chance as the selectors were ready to replace him.

Laxman rose to the occasion and played a magical innings; the first of many against Australia at the SCG. He reached his maiden Test hundred and made it big, scoring 167 runs. India were all out for 261 runs, 167 of which were scored by VVS Laxman. Australia’s bowling attack consisted of McGrath, Lee, Fleming & Warne. When every other batsman was failing, Laxman scored a career-saving knock. India lost the match but they found a solid, reliable batsman.

3. 281 (Kolkata, 2001)

Laxman raised the bar in every successive series that he played against Australia. He was back in Kolkata where, 3 years ago, he had missed out on his maiden century. The same ground, the same opponent. But this time Laxman did something astonishing. 

India had lost the 1st match of the series in Mumbai. In the 2nd Test, in reply to Australia’s 445 in first innings, India’s batting collapsed for a mere 171 runs. Only one man resisted- VVS Laxman, who scored 59. Australia enforced a follow-on and it looked like just a matter of time before Australia won the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

Looking at VVS Laxman’s 1st innings performance, India’s captain Sourav Ganguly took the audacious decision to send Laxman at the Number 3 position in place of Rahul Dravid. It turned out to be one of the most important decisions of Ganguly’s career. Laxman settled in and played one of the best innings ever played in cricket history. 

His career defining knock of 281 runs put India in a commanding position. He got support from Rahul Dravid, who scored 180 runs, and together they put up a partnership of 376 runs for the 5th wicket. Laxman’s was highest score by Indian cricketer in Tests.

The knock was special because not only did India win the match, they went on to win the series. It broke Australia’s record of 16 consecutive Test match wins. This knock will never be forgotten in the history of cricket. Laxman titled his autobiography “281 and Beyond” showing how special that knock is for him and for Indian cricket fans.

4. 148 (Adelaide, 2003)

In the 2003 tour, India won the Adelaide Test by 4 wickets. It was India’s first Test victory on Australian soil after 22 years. This Test is remembered for heroics of Rahul Dravid and Ajit Agarkar. But, once again, VVS Laxman played a crucial role.

In reply to Australia’s 556, India were struggling at 85 for 4 in the 1st innings. In walked Laxman to join Dravid. They steadied the ship and slowly started building a partnership. It was deja vu for them. This time Dravid scored 233 and Laxman played a supporting role with his magnificent 148. Once again, their partnership of 300+ runs took India closer to Australia’s 1st innings total. This was later leveraged by Ajit Agarkar, who took 6 wickets in the 2nd innings to set up a victory for India.

5. 178 (Sydney, 2004)

It was the last match of the series. The honours were level at 1-1. Australia needed to win the Test to take back the Border-Gavaskar trophy. India opted to bat first. 

The match is remembered for Sachin Tendulkar’s career-best knock of 241* but he was supported by VVS Laxman at the other end. Laxman notched up yet another century against Australia. His classy 178 contributed to a 353-run partnership with Tendulkar. 

India put up a mammoth 705 runs before declaring. These knocks from Sachin and Laxman ensured that India was in a safe position and could not lose from there. The match was drawn eventually and India retained Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

6. 109 (Sydney, 2008)

This match was VVS Laxman’s 3rd appearance at the Sydney Cricket Ground. On the previous 2 occasions, he had scored hundreds. This time was no different. He just loved playing at the SCG.

In reply to Australia’s 463, VVS Laxman walked in at Number 3 for India. He started playing shots as if he was in his own backyard, such was his affinity for the SCG. He repeated his 2004 success to score a Hat-Trick of centuries at the ground. 

He made 109 runs from 142 balls with 18 boundaries. His knock, with Sachin Tendulkar’s 154, helped India reach 532 runs and take a crucial lead of 69 runs. However, India couldn’t capitalize on that and lost the Test by 122 runs.

7. 200* (Delhi, 2008)

The wicket at Firoz Shah Kotla in Delhi was flat, a batsman’s paradise. VVS Laxman was up against his favourite opponents. There was no chance of him missing out on such an opportunity. India elected to bat first and Laxman was just waiting for his opportunity. Once he walked in, he looked flawless throughout. The Australians knew what was coming their way. 

Laxman scored a double century, his 2nd against Australia, and remained unbeaten on 200 runs. He got good support from Gautam Gambhir, who also scored 206 runs. The duo put on 278 runs for 4th wicket. India declared at 613 for 7.

The Australian batsmen took full advantage of the batting friendly conditions and put enough runs on the board to draw the Test. Laxman got his well-deserved Man of the Match award.

8. 73* (Mohali, 2010)

Laxman did not break any records in this innings. It’s neither a century nor a double century. But it’s more valuable than that. This is arguably the 2nd best innings Laxman has played after his 281-run knock in 2001.

After the match started, Laxman got an unexpected back injury. Australia scored 426 in 1st innings and India managed 405 in reply. Laxman’s injury was so severe that he only walked in to bat at No.10! He could survive for just 3 balls and managed 2 runs.

Australia got out for 192 in the 2nd innings, posting a target of 216. Australia’s opening bowlers, Hilfenhaus and Bollinger, reduced India to 76/5. At this moment, match was slipping out of India’s hands. Despite the back pain, Laxman chose to come in to bat. He was not able to run and, as a result, Suresh Raina was his runner. 

Battling the pain on one side and Australian bowlers on other, Laxman held one end firmly. Wickets kept tumbling at the other end, though. India were in a troublesome situation of 124/8. When all hopes were lost, Laxman showed faith in Ishant Sharma. Ishant responded well to Laxman’s guidance and together they shared a partnership of 81 runs. Just when it looked like they had snatched another victory from the jaws of the Aussies, Ishant was dismissed for 31. India’s were reeling at 205/9, still 11 away from victory.

Laxman took responsibility. He found the gaps on the final or penultimate balls of the over, protecting 11th man Ojha from the Australian bowlers. Eventually, Ojha hit the winning runs and India won by the narrowest of margins. It was a spectacular effort from Laxman given his injury. 

India went 1-0 up in 2 match series, but the score line for VVS Laxman was 4-0 against Australia, as it was the 4th time his performance had denied Australia a victory.

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