#SK Flashback: When VVS Laxman battled back spasms and led India to a thrilling win at Mohali
India were going through a golden phase in the longest format of the game when Australia arrived for a two-match series in 2010 for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The hosts had attained the number one ranking in Test cricket just under a year ago and had put forth a commendable performance in Sri Lanka, levelling the three-match series 1-1 after being 0-1 down.
The Australian cricket team were going through a transition of sorts with many new players part of the squad and it was up to captain Ricky Ponting to bring the best out of this developing team, that had players who were still finding their feet.
The first Test of the series saw both teams face off at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. The visitors won the toss ad elected to bat first and led by a century from Shane Watson and an unbeaten 92 from Tim Paine, put up 428 runs in their first innings.
In reply, led by a 98 from Sachin Tendulkar, 77 from Rahul Dravid and a gutsy 86 from Suresh Raina, India amassed 405 in their first innings to give the visitors a lead of 23 runs.
India needed to bowl well the second time around and led by Zaheer Khan, they did just that, bowling out the Australians for 192 runs in their second innings to give their batsman 216 to chase in just over four sessions.
Both teams needed a good start to stand a chance of winning and it was the Australians who struck early, removing the top 4 Indian batsmen cheaply to leave them reeling at 55 for 4 after the fourth day.
India were dealt a blow earlier during the game when VVS Laxman’s back gave up on him, meaning that he could not bat at his usual Number 6 position.
The following day, India found themselves further in trouble at 76 for 5, still 140 adrift of the target and Laxman had no option, but to walk out with Suresh Raina as his runner. As is the case in most scenarios with runners, the communication becomes an issue and at 122 for 6, India lost their last recognised batsman, when skipper MS Dhoni was run-out for 2.
The situation worsened further with the fall of Harbhajan Singh and at 124 for 8, with 91 still needed, Ishant Sharma joined Laxman to the middle.
The lanky pacer had shown in Sri Lanka earlier in the year that he possessed a decent defence, if not a copybook one and he displayed that in full aplomb, providing excellent support to his senior partner who also steadily began to get into his groove.
What it seemed like some late resistance soon started entering into the danger zone for the Aussies as Laxman and Ishant combined brilliantly to counter the visitor's grip over proceedings, putting on 81 runs for the ninth wicket before the latter was dismissed for an invaluable 31.
With 11 runs still needed, Pragyan Ojha joined Laxman in the middle and what followed a few overs later was one of the funniest things that you would witness on a cricket field.
With six runs to win, Laxman drove a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery towards mid-off and Raina set off for a single. But Ojha at the non-striker was not too keen for the run and it left the senior Hyderabadi absolutely fuming. Eventually, both players made it back to their respective crease and India had survived a scare. You normally didn’t see a man like Laxman lose his cool on the field, but even he could not keep his calm in such a tense scenario.
In the very next over, Ojha was rapped on his pads and the Aussies went up in unison, only to be turned down. Umpire Billy Bowden thought there was an inside edge, but replays suggested there wasn’t any and the ball was crashing into the middle stump.
To make matters worse, the ball had gone away for four overthrows as none of the Aussie fielders were at point trying to collect the ball thrown in by Steve Smith.
A tense next ball was negotiated safely and off the 4th ball of the 59th over, Ojha scrambled for two leg-byes to complete a sensational one-wicket win for the hosts, something that looked completely improbable at one point.
Laxman, along with Raina, had guided India to one of its most famous wins and it meant that India went into the second Test with a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Laxman, the adjudicators decided to award the Player of the Match to give Zaheer Khan, who got himself an 8-wicket haul, but the fast bowler too admitted that if needed, he would have had no issues in exchanging his Player of the Match award with the batsman.
“We call him Very Very Special (VVS). He has done it so many times for India. He played a remarkable innings and the way he approaches his game is fantastic. He got us out of the dangerous situation, full credit goes to him.
“I would have no problem if the man-of-the-match award had gone to him. As a team, we play to win, and that's what matter to me. I would rather give it to him. Winning matches is more important (than awards),” he said.
Player of the Match or not, Laxman had once again shown that he was as good as they get in the fourth innings of a Test and his contribution had once again secured India a thrilling victory.