Cricinfo: West Indies v India 2006
CricinfoWest Indies v India v 2006

3rd Test: Day 5 - West Indies v India at St Kitts, 22-26 June 2006 [ Scorecard ]
Top Performer of the match:
Windies thwarted twice by the Laxman rekha

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 in place.

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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