SPORT

Yet another special knock by Laxman

UNDERLINING HIS CREDENTIALS: V.V.S Laxman once again played a century knock when it mattered most and helped India score a formidable total.

UNDERLINING HIS CREDENTIALS: V.V.S Laxman once again played a century knock when it mattered most and helped India score a formidable total.  

G. Viswanath

Ahmedabad: V.V.S Laxman was the true batting maestro for India in the Motera Test. The stylish right-hander took a jaunty walk to face the energetic bunch of Sri Lankans at the fall of Gautam Gambhir. The new ball was as just 8. 3 overs old, and was just once smashed by the full face of the bat of Virender Sehwag.

In many ways, more so in the absence of Rahul Dravid, Laxman's approach suggested that occupation of the crease was his primary aim, which he carried out in an exemplary manner. Eventually, after playing his role almost for seven hours, Laxman departed from the centre stage on Monday after making his ninth century and with the home team placed at a satisfactory 308.

He raised his bat and acknowledged the applause from a couple of thousands seated above the players' dressing rooms. He showed his magic touch once again.

Until Monday, the 31-year-old Laxman was the only man of the India's famous and reliable middle order who had not sustained his efforts to the three-figure mark at the Motera where he made a half-century on debut against Hansie Cronje's South Africans in 1996. Sachin Tendulkar started it all with a 217 against New Zealand in 1999 and then a 103 against England in 2000, and thereafter Rahul Dravid (222) and Sourav Ganguly (100 not out) followed suit against Stephen Fleming's Black Caps in 2003.

Superb effort

Laxman's century was a superb effort, but can't be juxtaposed with his other select shows of individual brilliance. On Sunday evening, Anil Kumble said his teammate's unbeaten 71 was brilliant. It's a fine accolade for Laxman from a senior partner playing his 100th Test match.

Laxman had rescued India from a dismal 97 for five, with some useful partnerships from Dhoni and Pathan.

Accustomed to play the pivotal role and long partnerships with Dravid, Laxman defended with the

full face of the bat and with the ball under his eyes.

More often than not he played from within the crease, though once he danced down the pitch to challenge Muralitharan for profitable returns. Initially he faced testing times from Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof.

It was when the chips were down really, Laxman used his power of concentration to deal with the assorted pace and spin attack Marvan Attapatu brought into play with different field placements. It was an absorbing tussle between the bat and ball, that turned and often kept low, but Laxman was up to the task, playing the ball on sheer merit.

Twenty seven days ago in Chennai, captain Dravid put his foot down when a national selector proposed that Laxman need not be picked for the first Test against Sri Lanka. Dravid was firm, and said Laxman should be a straightforward choice in the team, which Laxman proved. He might have as well played the match-winning innings.

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