Mohali win was one of my greatest: Laxman
Australia set us a target of 216 on the fourth afternoon of the first Test of the 2010 series at Mohali. The wicket had not deteriorated, and it was good to bat on. We had successfully chased a 200-plus target in our previous Test, played in Sri Lanka, and we were therefore confident of winning.
However, trust the glorious uncertainties of the sport to come to the fore! We were 55/4 at stumps on Day 4. The back injury that had troubled me in Sri Lanka, had recurred during the Test. I had consequently batted at No.10 in the first innings, and hadn’t fielded in the second innings. I had hoped not to bat in the second innings, but it was obvious that I would have to, on the last day.
I accordingly went out to have a net on the fourth evening. I was timing the ball well, and Gary Kirsten, our coach, who had been watching, insisted that I bat at the fall of the fifth wicket, ahead of the skipper MS Dhoni. Zaheer Khan was fifth man out with the score at 76 on the fifth morning, and I went in, with Suresh Raina as my runner. Sachin and I added 43, but the Ausies struck back by dismissing him, Dhoni and Harbhajan in quick succession. At 124/8, the match was as good as over.
The only thing I told Ishant Sharma, the new batsman, was to ‘hang in there’ and frustrate the opposition. Ishant may not be the best batsman in the world, but he possesses a sound defence and impeccable temperament. He applied himself, and our partnership flowered. The three of us – Ishant, myself and Raina – kept talking between overs. When you have someone running for you, it is better to let him and your partner work out the ‘communication’ part of things; and that is exactly what I did.
It would be right to say that we were not thinking in terms of victory, until the target was 20-25 runs away. It was a question of two good balls, after all. We could see that the Australians were getting more and more desperate for a breakthrough. In fact, they were trying too hard. Instead of keeping it simple and bowling line-and-length, they attacked us, and the outcome was quite a few loose deliveries, which we managed to put away for runs.
Ishant got out when we needed 11 to win. I felt bad for him, as I did for Pragyan Ojha, the new batsman. The pressure must have been tremendous. But he assured me that he would manage. There was a tense moment in a Ben Hilfenhaus over. It was the fifth ball, and I was as keen to retain the strike, as the Australians were trying to deny me the same. I played the ball into the field for what I assumed would be an easy single. However, there was a misunderstanding between Raina and Ojha, and the latter was late to respond. He was lucky to return to the non-striker’s crease in time, and I yelled at him. It would have been tragic to lose after coming so close.
We survived that phase, and inched towards the target. There was another anxious moment, when there was a confident appeal for leg-before against Ojha. He was quick to point out that he had got an inside edge. The winning moment came when the ball hit him on the pads and went down to fine-leg, and he and Raina scampered for two leg-byes.
To say that I was thrilled would be an understatement. It is not often that you get to be a part of such a win, that too against a formidable opponent. The entire team invaded the ground to congratulate us, and the spectators, who must have realized at some point that they were witnessing something extraordinary, gave us a standing ovation. It was one of the greatest moments of my cricketing career.
VVS Laxman scored 2,434 runs @ 49.6 from 29 Tests against Australia, inclusive of six centuries. His 281 at Kolkata in 2000-01 is regarded as one of the greatest innings ever essayed in Test history. He scored a match-winning, unbeaten 73 against his favourite opposition, at Mohali in October 2010.