There are some things in Cricket that you can prepare for, like Brett Lee’s bouncers and Hogg’s wrong ones. And then there are some things for which no preparation what so ever is going to help you- Poor umpiring. Indians were struck by a series of erroneous decisions made by the on and the off field umpires yesterday. They did well to leave the bad luck behind them and after the early loss of Jaffer, Indians had consolidated and reached a strong position at the end of the second day’s play but not before we witnessed a Very very special innings from the Sultan of Hyderabad, VVS Laxman.
The Australians were earlier dismissed for a mammoth total of 463 with Lee getting a fifty and Symonds remained unbeaten at a 162. Kumble wiped out the tail, picking up the last four wickets. The hosts had another umpiring decision going their way when Bucknor did not refer to the third umpire a stumping appeal made against Symonds. The replays completely showed that his foot was in the air, as the bails came off.
In the Indian reply, the majestic Laxman was at his wristy best as he came out in an aggressive mood to face the Aussie Bowlers. Jaffer, had no answer to the brilliant swinging yorker by lee. He flicked from outside off stump, drove straight down the ground and even pulled Clark and Lee behind square with ease. Laxman played his signature shots and reached his fifty off just 43 balls comprising off ten delightful boundaries. On the other hand, Dravid was defending everything on and outside the off stump and looked keen in only occupying the crease. Dravid played the sheet anchor role to perfection matching Laxman’s aggression with his defence.
Boundaries continued flowing from the bat of Laxman after tea. Dravid received a huge cheer from the 30,000 strong Sydney crowd when he finally managed a single after 38 dot balls. But, as Hogg came on to bowl even Dravid got into the groove playing aerial shots. Laxman on the other hand went on to complete his 12th test hundred in tests. No wonder, Aussies fear Laxman as four of his top five test innings have come against the World Champions. This was Laxman’s third consecutive ton at the SCG. Dravid meanwhile reached his fifty of 158 balls. But the 175 run partnership between Dravid and Laxman came to an end when Dravid was caught by Hayden at first slip off the bowling of Johnson. Laxman too got out against the run of play when he was caught at short cover of the bowling off Hogg.
Tendulkar(9) and Ganguly(21) were at the crease at the end of days play at 216/3 after successfully seeing out a spell of hostile bowling by Brett Lee. Indians would feel that they are well placed and can hope to cross Australia’s target of 463 tomorrow. Sachin has averaged a staggering 250 in his four test matches that he has played at SCG. In 2001 he got a double hundred here. Lee was the pick of the bowlers and was the only one who really looked like getting Laxman out. Hogg continued to trouble Ganguly with his wrong ones. Meanwhile, Gilchrist had a poor day behind the stumps, as he let off Dravid and Laxman when they were just getting settled. Ponting would be lauded for his sportsmanship when he didn’t claim the catch off Dravid at first slip.
The day belonged to Laxman. In this era of power hitting, it’s great to see a batsman having the sheer elegance as that of Laxman. One of the Indian top order batsmen had to go on to make a big score and it was Laxman who did it today. It was a Laxman Dravid partnership that had turned the series around in 2001 in India. This one didn’t match the Kolkatta one in terms of runs but certainly did in the amount of effort taken by the two batsmen in seeing of the new ball. Now the onus is on Saching, Ganguly and the rest of the batting line up to go on and make a big first innings big score and then we could well be looking at a historic test win at Sydney.