Laxman, Dravid lead Indian recovery

VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid evoked memories of two of India’s greatest comebacks with a scintillating 175-run partnership in the second Test against Australia on Thursday.

Laxman smashed 109 and Dravid a watchful 53 to guide the tourists out of immediate danger to 216-3 at stumps on the second day at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

India finished the day 257 runs behind Australia’s imposing first-innings total of 463, but with renewed hope of ending Australia’s bid for a record-equalling 16th straight Test win after their 337-run defeat in Melbourne last week.

Their chances will largely depend on the performances of Sachin Tendulkar (nine not out) and Sauruv Ganguly (15 not out), who came together in the last hour after Laxman and Dravid fell in quick succession, to the obvious relief of the Australians.

The home team had made an early breakthrough when express paceman Brett Lee bowled Wasim Jaffer for three with a swinging full toss that crashed into the base of off stump, but their celebrations were short-lived.

Laxman and Dravid have a history of stonewalling the Australian bowlers and turning precarious situations into victory and once again proved to be a thorn in their side.

The pair famously shared a magnificent 376-run partnership in the ”Miracle of Calcutta” in 2001 as well as a 303-run stand in Adelaide two years later, when India pulled off another surprise win against Australia.

They fell well short of another triple-century partnership in Sydney, however, but still managed to frustrate the Australians for nearly four hours on a docile pitch still heavily favouring the batsmen.

Fifth century

Laxman’s century was his fifth Test hundred against Australia and his third in as many appearances at Sydney and showed why he remains the nemesis of Australia’s bowlers.

The 33-year-old struck 18 boundaries, including four in one over off Australian left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson in a fearless display highlighted by a series of sweetly timed cover drives.

He was dropped by wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist on 77 but refused to curb his natural instincts, reaching his hundred off 137 balls with a boundary off Brad Hogg.

Dravid, who has been struggling for form since being moved up to open, was far more subdued and content to play the role of anchorman as his partner plundered the runs.

He went into his shell after being caught off a no-ball on 15, taking 53 deliveries to move from 18 to 19, then survived two strong appeals for catches on 24 and 47.

He eventually brought up his half-century after four hours when he drove Johnson to the boundary rope but departed two balls later when he edged a head-high catch to Matthew Hayden at slip.

Laxman departed in the next over when he drove Hogg straight to Mike Hussey at short extra cover, leaving Tendulkar and Ganguly to battle through to stumps.

India’s recovery came after Australia added a brisk 96 to their overnight score of 376-6.

Andrew Symonds was left stranded on a career-best 162 after Indian captain Anil Kumble polished off the Australian tail to finish with figures of 4-106.

Lee chipped in with an entertaining 59, his fourth Test half-century, after piling on 117 with Symonds for the eighth wicket while Johnson smacked a rapid 28 and Stuart Clark made a duck.

Symonds struck 18 fours and two sixes in his 226-ball knock, bettering his 156 against England in the Melbourne Ashes Test in December 2006 and confirming his status as Australia’s best all-rounder. — Reuters

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