Laxman’s 281 voted ‘the best Test innings’ in half a century: The second Test match between India and Australia played at the historic Eden Gardens, Kolkata, between 11th and 15th March, 2001, has been recognised as an ‘Epic Test’ for various reasons.
Team India, led by Saurav Ganguly, walked into the second Test of the 3-Test series, trailing 0-1, losing the first encounter in Mumbai by a huge margin of 10 wickets.
The second Test also did not start well for Team India. Steve Waugh-led Australia, won the toss and elected to bat. Backed by a well-made 97 runs by Mathew Hayden and 110 runs by the skipper, they amassed a huge total of 445 runs in their first innings.
A fine bowling display by Glenn McGrath (14-8-18-4), ably supported by Jason Gillespie (11-0-47-2), Michel Kasprowicz (13-2-39-2) and Shane Warne (20.1-3-65-2), enabled Aussies to pin down India and restrict them to 171 runs, facing a deficit of 274 runs. Indian first innings lasted only 58.1 overs.
Forced to follow on, India had to first overcome the deficit and then score more to force Aussies bat for the second time.
The openers, Shib Sundar Das and Sadgopan Ramesh did not last long. At 97/2 Sachin Tendulkar joined VVS Laxman, who was incidentally promoted by Ganguly to bat at No 3. But Sachin also left early, scoring only 10 runs in an all-important game.
Skipper Ganguly held fort for some time but eventually departed after scoring 48 runs, leaving the team struggling at 232 runs for the loss of 4 wickets. They were still trailing by 42 runs and had just six wickets in hand.
At this juncture Rahul Dravid joined VVS Laxman in the middle and both played the innings of their life time.
Laxman reached his century in 166 deliveries with 17 fours. With the new ball taken after 80.2 overs, which incidentally was also 19th over of McGrath, Laxman notched his 150 runs in 233 deliveries with 27 hits to the fence. India registered 300 runs in 371 minutes in 89.1 overs.
At lunch on day 4, India had scored 376/4 with Laxman unbeaten on 172* runs and Dravid on unbeaten 50* runs. Dravid’s half-century came in 121 deliveries with 7 fours.
While India touched the 400-run mark in 460 minutes and 110.5 overs, Laxman recorded his double-ton in 304 deliveries with the help of 35 fours. Playing second fiddle to Laxman, Dravid completed his century in 205 deliveries, studded with 13 hits to the fence.
India’s 500 runs came up in 137.3 overs consuming 571 minutes of play. While on his personal score of 237 runs, Laxman overcame the record of 236* runs scored by Sunil Gavaskar for the highest individual tally by an Indian batsman in Tests.
David’s 150 runs came up in 303 deliveries with 18 fours.
India ended Day 4 at 589 runs for the loss of 4 wickets in their second innings with Laxman unbeaten on 275* runs and Dravid unbeaten on 155* runs.
On the final day of the Test, India clocked 600 runs in 167.4 overs. McGrath’s 38th over and after 174.3 overs in India’s second innings, Australia claimed the second new ball.
India scored 650 runs in 177.4 overs.
Batting for 631 minutes, facing 452 deliveries, hitting 44 fours, VVS Laxman departed in the pen-ultimate delivery of the 170th over after scoring a mammoth 281 runs. He was caught by Ricky Ponting off the bowling of Glenn McGrath.
The duo of Laxman and Dravid had put up a record partnership of 376 runs in 104.1 overs for the fifth wicket.
Dravid stayed on for another 21 runs and departed after scoring 180 runs in 446 minutes off 353 deliveries with 20 hits to the fence. Aussie skipper, Waugh tried as many as 9 bowlers to unsettle Laxman and Dravid.
India eventually went on to score 657/7 decl, requiring Australia to score 384 runs for a victory.
India’s ace off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh, who had a wonderful first innings by claiming 7/123, went on to spin his magic once again and was instrumental in restricting Aussies to 212/10 in their target chase.
While Harbhajan finished the match with an impressive analysis of 67.5-15-196-13, India went on to win the match by 171 runs and level the series 1-1 going into the final encounter.
VVS Laxman was awarded the Player of the Match.
A 25-member panel of cricketers, writers, broadcasters, historians and statisticians assembled to vote for the BEST INNINGS in a Test over a half century period.
They voted this innings of VVS Laxman as the ‘best amongst the best’ over a 50 year period.
The panel, drawn from all Test-playing nations, included Greg Chappell, John Wright, Tony Cozier, Mark Nicholas, Sanjay Manjrekar, Mike Selvey, Ramiz Raja, Scyld Berry, Osman Samiuddin and Gideon Haigh.