In the first innings, VVS Laxman had to see India through a
potential implosion after a middle-order collapse. In the second,
India had lost both openers but was building up momentum for a
late charge at the target. And Laxman played both roles, that of
protecting his wicket and scoring at a healthy rate with ease.
The chance of India chasing 392 for victory was remote and once
Virender Sehwag fell it was almost unthinkable. The danger of
losing wickets in pursuit of runs was ever present. Laxman walked
in to an intimidating field. Brian Lara had two slips, a short
gully, short cover, a silly mid-off, a leg-gully and a short leg
Laxman began by defending those balls directed at his stumps and
leaving those outside off stump. After 11 dot balls, he got off
the mark with a languid flick to fine-leg. Once settled, Laxman
got going with a straight drive for four and a couple of glances
to the third-man fence. Thereafter the runs began to flow, ones
and twos coming with ease, interspersed with the gorgeous on-
drive or a punchy cover drive. Having reached his half-century,
Laxman controlled the run-chase until he finally lunged at a ball
outside off stump and nicked to slip. By that time, the
possibility of India losing was all but buried.
If his second-innings effort helped shepherd India towards
safety, Laxman had a much more vital role to play in the first.
At the start of the fourth day, India were comfortably placed at
150 for 2 in reply to West Indies. 581. However, Jerome Taylor,
in the midst of an exceptional spell, grabbed three wickets in
the space of six balls. Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad
Kaif were dismissed for virtually nothing and India were 223 runs
away from saving the follow-on.
The pitch was slow and occasionally kept low but Laxman did what
the middle-order didn't, he survived. Once settled, Laxman
indulged in his trademark flicks with the flair getting more
pronounced when he neared his century. He unleashed a couple of
crisp back-foot punches and treated the crowd to sublime straight
drives. He fell soon after but his century had played a vital
part in whittling down West Indies' lead, the main reason why
Lara decided against enforcing the follow-on.
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