BBC News | 5 October 2010 | 10:13 UK
VVS Laxman struck a superb unbeaten 73 as India fought back from the brink of defeat to beat Australia by one wicket in a thrilling first Test in Mohali. Laxman, batting with a runner due to a back injury, was ably assisted by tail-ender Ishant Sharma as India rallied from 124-8 to within sight of victory. But when Sharma was dismissed for 31, the hosts still required 11 to win. In a dramatic finale, Laxman and last man Pragyan Ojha held their nerve to see India to the victory target of 216.
"It’s one of best and most exciting Test matches I’ve played in," said Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who has never led his side to a Test victory in India. "Full credit goes to India for fighting out the win today. They outplayed us today; we weren’t quite good enough to get across the line." It was a breath-taking climax to the match, with both sides pushing hard for victory.
And while last man Ojha was at the crease, there looked a real possibility of only the third ever tie in Test cricket history. The home side had appeared on course for a win when Laxman and Sharma took the score past 200 in a partnership of 81. But Sharma’s dismissal – harshly adjudged lbw to Ben Hilfenhaus (4-57) by umpire Ian Gould to a ball that would have missed leg stump – left the match on a knife-edge with India on 205-9.
Then came another pivotal moment as Mitchell Johnson swung the ball into Ojha’s pads and screamed his lbw appeal, but this time Gould’s partner Billy Bowden ruled not out, only for TV replays to suggest again that the official had made the wrong decision.
With India’s batsmen scampering a single, Steven Smith had a shy at the stumps but missed with the batsman well out of his ground. The ball ran for four overthrows, taking India within two runs of their target. Two balls later, two more leg byes off another Johnson delivery saw India home and sparked jubilant scenes.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni paid tribute to Laxman, who was batting at number seven after injuring his back during Australia’s first innings. "VVS is a remarkable batsman," he said. "If he is at the crease, whatever the field you set, he can still score runs. He was injured in the first innings but the way he batted in the second, for me, was very special. It’s a very emotional victory. It was one of the best matches I have ever played in."
The match looked destined for a draw after both sides made more than 400 in their first innings, but a superb display from India’s bowlers saw Australia dismissed for 192-second time round. The tourists hit back in the evening session on day four with Hilfenhaus claiming three quick wickets to leave India reeling on 55-4 at the close. Nathan Hauritz made the first breakthrough on the final day, when he had night watchman Zaheer Khan caught by Michael Clarke for 10.
That brought Laxman to join Sachin Tendulkar at the crease and for a time, the veteran duo looked to be steering India back into contention. Their partnership had added 43 for the sixth wicket when Doug Bollinger made the breakthrough. Tendulkar, who fell two runs short of a record-extending 49th Test century in the first innings, had advanced to 38 second time round when he slashed at a Bollinger delivery and gloved a catch straight to Mike Hussey in the gully.
Dhoni followed for two runs after a mix-up with Laxman’s runner Suresh Raina, and Harbhajan Singh was caught by Ponting at slip from a well-directed short ball from Bollinger for the same score. Sensing that he was running out of partners, Laxman went on the offensive, cutting and driving to the boundary to keep the scoreboard ticking over. With Sharma growing in confidence at the other end, and key paceman Bollinger forced off with injury, India were surging towards the winning post.
But the wicket of Sharma provided another twist to the plot and set up a finish that will live long in the memory.