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Tendulkar, Laxman put India in charge

Ashish Magotra | January 03, 2004 08:38 IST
Last Updated: January 03, 2004 15:20 IST

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When was the last time you saw Steve Waugh give up? When was last time you saw three Australian bowlers concede over a hundred runs in an innings? When was the last time you saw the Aussie openers come out to bat with the opposition having scored over 650?

I certainly can't remember. Can you?

A mammoth 353-run record partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and V V S Laxman had the Aussies chasing leather during the first two sessions without any reward before Parthiv Patel piled on the agony with some brilliant shots in the last session on day 2 of the fourth Test at the Sydney Cricket Gorund on Saturday.

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At close of play, India were 650 for five -- the second highest total at the SCG and the highest ever by a visiting team -- after 180 overs, with Tendulkar going strong on 220 and Patel unbeaten on 45.

There are only two results possible: India wins, or a draw. Australia have been batted out of this Test. The Indians can win this game; they must believe they can. One is sure Sourav Ganguly knows he can.

Morning session (103 off 30 overs)

Whatever moisture was there in the wicket had disappeared and it was a batsman's paradise.

Laxman almost immediately found his touch and Tendulkar, after taking time to get going, matched him stroke for stroke.

But it was Laxman's bat that did all the talking early on. Resuming at his overnight score of 29, the right-hand batsman raced to 49 with five boundaries in 10 balls -- all of Brett Lee. The fast bowler conceded 29 runs in his four-over spell before Waugh decided to take him out of the attack.

Laxman's batting was all class. Sweetly timed fours to all corners of the ground made him a difficult man to contain. His good form seemed to dissipate all the nervousness in Tendulkar.

Jason Gillespie had started off with two maidens, both directed at Tendulkar, who took a while to take off from his overnight score of 73. But then he proceeded to make batting look easy.

A feature of Tendulkar's innings was his play on the leg-side. He made it a point to almost leave everything outside the off-stump. The little genius wanted bowlers to bowl exactly where he wanted them to.

No Australian bowler really made an impression on the Indian pair, which punished every bad ball and made the entire session a dream sequence for the connoisseurs.

Laxman dominated the partnership, scoring with sublime ease. It made you just want to sit back and admire his stroke-play. The fielders were reduced to spectators as he time and again displayed the knack of finding the gap.

Not very often does Tendulkar go through a series without getting a century but one got the feeling this one was special. A clenched fist greeted the hundred and the relief was self-evident.

But India survived a close call. Things were going perfectly when Laxman, on 94, set off for a suicidal single. Simon Katich, the bowler, was punched through the covers, where Stuart MacGill dived to his right to effect a very good stop and threw the ball off-balance, but wide off the stumps to the wicket-keeper. But by the time Gilchrist collected and hit the stumps, Laxman had dived to just make his crease. The nerves were starting to affect him as he got closer to the coveted three-figure mark.

A wicket at this point would have given the Aussies a lot of heart going into lunch. India dominated the morning session, scoring 103 runs at 3.4 runs an over to take charge of the match.

At lunch, on Day 2, India were 387 for three after 120 overs, with Tendulkar on 110 and Laxman on 94.

Post Lunch session (108 runs in 30 overs)

At the start of this tour, Australia opener Matthew Hayden had said that Laxman couldn't play short bowling. Now, standing in the slips and watching the elegant Hyderabadi stroke his way to two centuries, one can be sure his opinion has changed.

Laxman's strokes have the elegance and class Hayden will never have.

Boundaries every over kept the pressure on the hosts and the crowd gradually warmed to the Indian batsmen.

The boundaries were numerous and classy; Laxman slammed 28 and the more subdued Tendulkar found the fence as many as 22 times.

Waugh has an extraordinary record as captain. But a lot of that can be put down to the quality of players he has had in his team. The most important of them -- Glenn McGrath (430 wickets) and Shane Warne (491 wickets) -- are missing. In this Test he has looked downright ordinary as captain. Maybe it is because of the Indian batting.

Lee failed to intimidate. The faster he bowled, the quicker the ball disappeared. The sting was missing from the Aussie attack. They had no plan B. MacGill spun the ball but it was generally too wide or full to trouble the well-set batsmen.

Tendulkar and Laxman were on a record-breaking spree. Their overall partnership of 301 established a host of new batting records, including the highest ever fourth wicket stand by any country against Australia.

Laxman, who has shared stands of 376 and 303 with Rahul Dravid, also joined Don Bradman, Javed Miandad and Herschelle Gibbs as the only players to be involved in three triple-century partnerships.

Laxman completed his seventh Test hundred and second of the series while Tendulkar just kept going at the other end.

At tea, India were 495 for three after 150 overs, with Tendulkar on 149 and Laxman on 159.

Post tea session (155 runs for the loss of two wicket off 30 overs)

Waugh must be distraught. His farewell party spoilt by a brilliant, breathtaking display of batting by the Indians.

If Laxman was at his fluent best, Tendulkar was the crafty accumulator. Together they put on one of the most important partnerships in the history of Indian cricket, one that could win the Test and series. The Indians could not have written a better script for the day.

Runs were scored, few wickets were lost, the Australian morale was destroyed; their bowlers were sent on a leather hunt and records tumbled with such regularity that if you were at the ground you could have thought you were watching a highlights capsule.

Certainly the Aussies had never experienced anything like this. Their misery was compounded when Stuart MacGill dropped Tendulkar in the first over after tea. Bracken was the bowler. It was a difficult chance, but when the opposition is batting so well, you have to make every chance count.

Laxman was also dropped, on 177; MacGill the culprit again. This time round it was a sitter. A frustrated Gillespie decided to do the best thing possible two balls later. He got the third new ball to jag back off the seam, hit Laxman's front pad and crashed onto the off-stump. Relief was writ large on the faces of the Australian players. Laxman had scored 178 and his second successive century at the SCG. An amazing innings that set the agenda and helped Tendulkar find his touch too. The partnership was worth 353 runs -- a new fourth wicket record for India. (547-4)

Ganguly was in next and one expected him to blaze away from the first ball. That's exactly what he did. The first ball from Lee was dispatched for four and it was clear to all watching that the Indian skipper was on the lookout for some quick runs.

But he did not last too long. The left-hander was bowled by a yorker from Brett Lee when on 16. (570-5)

Patel was in next and he surprised all with his pluck. He hammered the bowling to all parts off the ground as he compiled a quickfire 45 off just 40 balls. Tendulkar was unbeaten at the other end on 220 - his highest Test score.

The Australian bowlers were all taken to the cleaners. Three of them too could be credited with centuries though of a different kind. Lee, Gillespie, MacGill conceded over hundred runs, with Bracken just missing out, hammered for 97.

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