Laxman's 281 the best Test innings in last 50 years
In the game’s timeline, there have been etchings made by its practitioners that have marked the onset as well as the culmination of different eras. The game, at times, has been defined in the name of legends who pioneered their art, let it thrive and enrich the sport, and left a memory to be looked at for ages.
When Jacques Kallis made his final Test hundred in his final Test match, or when Sachin Tendulkar got caught by Darren Sammy on 74 for the last time in history, marks were made in the sands of time for the game’s followers – you and me – to revel at.
On a sultry afternoon in Kolkata in 2001, an instant that now dazzles amongst its neighbours, a man put up a spectacle that essentially made him the No. 1 nemesis of the No. 1 Test country that has ever played Test cricket.
VVS Laxman’s unbeaten 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens didn’t just announce the presence of his side as a potential threat to the then world-beaters, but it also set the path right for one of India’s most memorable, if not the greatest, Test victories.
Recognising the monumental feat, a poll conducted by Cricket Monthly, ESPNCricinfo’s monthly online cricket magazine, counting the top 50 Test performances of the past 50 years, has hailed Laxman’s innings as the best one.
With the selection panel comprising of eminent cricketers, renowned journalists, and broadcasters, including the likes of Greg Chappell, John Wright, Tony Cozier, Mark Nicholas, Sanjay Manjrekar, Mike Selvey, Ramiz Raja, Scyld Berry, Osman Samiuddin and Gideon Haigh, to name a few, helped make the Top 50 in 50 list.
Apart from Laxman, the star-studded countdown contains legends like Brian Lara, Ian Botham, Michael Holding, Sachin Tendulkar etc. with Lara grabbing the most entries in the listing with 4 entries. Botham follows with three entries with two in the top 5, including his clinical all-round performance in the Oval Test of the 1981 Ashes.
Lara’s 153 not out against Australia in Bridgetown in 1999 has been voted as No. 4 while Botham occupies No. 2 and No. 5 positions. Richard Hadlee, Muttiah Muralitharan, Graham Gooch, Garry Sobers and Bob Massie round up the top 10.
The stylish Indian batsman’s opponents from that game had words of humungous appreciation for the batsman. "I was bowling in the foot marks and Laxman was hitting the same ball through cover or whipping it through midwicket. It was so hard to bowl then," said Shane Warne.
Former Australian captain, and Australia’s highest Test run-getter, Ricky Ponting had this say of Hyderabadi batsman, “(his) work through the leg side in particular, was a source of wonderment to many of us... Ultimately we bowled for near enough to two days at him without even looking like getting him out."