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Dravid, Laxman hoist India with hundreds

Faisal Shariff | December 14, 2003 09:11 IST
Last Updated: December 14, 2003 13:49 IST

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India added another outstanding chapter to their tour of Australia, ending day three in the second Test at 477 for 7, with Rahul Dravid unbeaten on 199.

India scored 297 runs, losing three wickets, at 3.34 runs an over. They trail the Aussie total of 556 by 79 runs.

Dravid batted all day for the second time against Australia, a rare feat that speaks volumes of his stature as a Test batsman. At the start of the series, his career average was 54.67. After his unbeaten knock of 199 on the third day, that had risen to 56.09 -- more than Sachin Tendulkar (55.86) and Ricky Ponting (54.61).

Earlier in the day, a mammoth partnership of 303 between VVS Laxman (148) and Dravid saw the Aussie bowlers put to the sword. The partnership was also the highest for any wicket for India in an away Test. 

Morning Session:

When Dravid and Laxman walked out to bat the Indian dressing room was charged with the expectation of another record partnership from the combine.

Memories of day four at Eden Gardens, when the duo scored 376 runs and changed the course of the series against the Australians, gushed back.

Dravid indicated his intentions, driving the first ball of the day from Brad Williams only to be stopped in the over-crowded cover region. Aussie skipper Waugh was defending the field with unconventional placements, keen to plug the
bread and butter scoring areas of the batters. Stuart MacGill was employed into the attack in the third over of the day and the game got off to a slow start. 

Dravid completed his maiden half-century on Australian soil off 138 balls even though the Australian target was still a distant 367 runs away. Being involved in the run-out with Ganguly had doubled his intentions of staying out at the crease with a huge return. A mere nine runs were scored of the first ten overs and the early challenge of the Aussie attack was countered.

The first four of the day came in the 15th over, when Dravid flicked MacGill to the mid-wicket fence. Laxman, for his part, was batting with studied intensity, just looking to get a measure of the wicket.

'The harder you try, the luckier you get' must have been the thought on Laxman's mind when he nicked the first ball after drinks from Williams to Ricky Ponting at second slip. Ponting, the safest of hands in the field, grassed the ball and Laxman, on 65, survived to live another session.

Laxman wore his concentration gear back and batted with marked freedom. He played a more all-round game scoring on both sides of the field while Dravid's game was more dominated by his on-side play. The styles of the two batsmen was a pretty picture though MacGill wouldn't quite appreciate it.

While Laxman played deliveries pitching wide outside leg with his trademark inside out drives through covers, Dravid, wearing his dancing slippers, got to the pitch of the ball to the same deliveries and flicked them to the mid-wicket region for easy pickings.

The scoring rate at 2.25 though was in sharp contrast to the first two days, when runs were scored at almost four and over. A mere 54 runs were scored after the Aussies had sent down 27 overs in the morning.

Laxman opened the floodgates with a flurry of fours off MacGill in the 79th over of the innings just before the new ball was due. Surprisingly enough, the new ball was tossed to Brad Williams, who swung it appreciably but failed to find the edge.

It was intriguing to see Andy Bichel, stationed in the outfield all morning, not bowl for most of the morning. He had taken three of the four wickets that fell on day two, including the prize wicket of Tendulkar. He, however, bowled the second over with the new cherry just before lunch.

India went to lunch at 252-4, still trailing the Australian first innings score of 556 runs by 304 runs. Laxman, on 87 off 196 balls, and Dravid, with 83 from 206 balls, had added 167 runs for the fifth wicket with another 84 runs to avoid the follow on.

Post Lunch session:

A searing cover drive from Dravid kicked off the second session and signaled India's intention. Gillespie bounced Dravid, dished out a mouthful, walked back to the top of his run-up and sent down another bouncing challenge.

Taking up the gauntlet, Dravid hooked the snorter over the backward square leg fence for six and reached the magical three-figure mark on Australian soil.

It was an innings of high quality and immense value to his side. The 223-ball knock was studded with 30 singles, 11 twos, 10 boundaries and a six. The hundred had 54 scoring shots, 75 per cent of which were middled. 56 per cent of those runs were through the on side. It was a clear indication of his positive intention.

Dravid is a cricketer with a boxer's game plan.  He believes in wearing down the opposition before moving in for the kill with a flurry of punches.

After the epic 180 he scored at Eden Gardens, which complimented Laxman's 281, Dravid had told "At times the runs don't matter. I bat time. That is what Test cricket is all about, all said and done! It is all about how long you can keep the opposition in the park and back yourself."

Laxman adopts a more straightforward approach to his cricket. At any point of time, a ball asking to be hit will not be disappointed. A single to mid-wicket got Laxman his second century in Australia, off 209 balls. With the bitterness of the World Cup exclusion behind him, Laxman has now etched his name amongst the top batsmen in world cricket. His easy flowing strokes, complimented with his ability to play the ball to any part of the ground, irrespective of the line of the ball, are unmatched. 

The run tap was flowing and 33 runs had been scored of the first six overs after lunch. India topped the 300-run mark and Laxman, with the bat swing of a river bend, was mocking Waugh's indigenous field settings.

He pierced the two gullies set for him for a four, then played a couple of sublime inside-out drives off MacGill. The cover drives were routine as were the flicks to mid-wicket just to get off the strike out of sheer boredom. 

Running out of ideas, Waugh decided to run in and roll his arm over for a couple of overs. Indulging in his own battle in the middle, he kept bowling down the leg side, hoping to get a feather touch to the keeper.

71 runs had been scored since lunch in only 16 overs and the Laxman-Dravid show was reaching its crescendo. They cut, pulled, drove, and flicked the Australian bowlers to every district of the picturesque Adelaide Oval.

Dravid, accelerating after registering his hundred, got to 150 before spectators could finish marveling at his magnificent hundred. He took a mere 76 balls to go from 100 to 150.

Laxman was dropped yet again by Ponting behind point with the batsman on 139. But that was not to prove too costly for Australia, as Laxman was finally gone for 148, edging Bichel to the keeper after another masterpiece. 

Laxman's innings was another signature effort, with 60 per cent of his runs coming through the off side, missing just a fraction over 5 per cent of the balls he faced.

The 303-run partnership sailed India to safety and also posted a strong riposte to the Australians. At tea, India were sitting pretty at 388-5, trailing Australia by 168 runs.

With Brad Williams off the field after falling on his left arm, Dravid, on 158, must be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a further depleted Aussie attack, though Laxman will be biting his.

Post Tea session:

Parthiv Patel walked out and justified his selection with a cameo knock, briefly stealing the limelight from Dravid.

He drove Gillespie and Bichel through the covers, cut MacGill for a four. Fancying his chances against the leggie MacGill, he smashed him for three fours in one over. In the process, he added 59 runs with Dravid in quick time for the sixth wicket.

But his innings of 31 from 52 balls was terminated soon after drinks when he smacked a turner from Simon Katich to Ponting at mid-off. India lost wicket number six for 447, still trailing the Aussies by 109.

Agarkar followed soon after for 11, shaping to pull the ball and only managing to balloon a catch to MacGill at mid-on. (469-7)

Dravid retrieved into a shell, creeping to his second double-century of the year. Earlier in the year he scored 222 against New Zealand at Ahmedabad.

It was only at the fag end of the last session, that one could fathom what would have transpired had Laxman stayed with Dravid in the last session of the day with the Aussie bowlers depleted and defeated.

Dravid ended the day one short of 200, having batted all day for the second time against Australia. His 199 ensured India ended the day on a high, at 477-7 off 143 overs.

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