VVS Renews Love Affair With SCG, Slams Ton To Put India In Strong Position

Sydney: It all looked ‘Very Very Similar’ to last time, but Laxman’s wonderful 109 at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday was more important to Team India in terms of runs rather than the artistry involved in the process of accumulation.
Laxman’s third hundred at this venue on consecutive tours to Australia kept his team in the game after Australia had stretched their first innings to 463 with some additional help from Steve Bucknor. At close on Day 2, India were 216 for three, still 247 behind Australia’s tally with Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the middle.
With Wasim Jaffer making heavy weather of handling Brett Lee’s furious pace, Laxman found himself taking guard in the seventh over. Having set up Jaffer nicely with a few short deliveries, Lee slipped in a swinging yorker at 147kmph that beat Jaffer for pace and crashed into the base of his off-stump.
Laxman, who seems to always find an extra gear against the Australians, batted freely for the next 218 minutes, adding 175 runs for the second wicket and literally chaperoning his partner Rahul Dravid out of troubled times before guiding India to a position of relative safety.
Dravid looked like a man at an internet cafe encountering connectivity problems. He enjoyed a good start, but suffered from low connectivity once he entered his ‘teens’. On 18, he encountered an error in connection and was reduced to stonewalling for 39 deliveries before, rebooting his innings. If he required 100 deliveries to score his first 20 runs, his next 35 came off just 58 during which he looked every bit the player who has close to 10,000 Test runs under his belt.
Dravid, however, enjoyed his share of luck while notching up one of his most laboured half-centuries. On 15 he was caught off a Mitchell Johnson no-ball by Ponting. Later the Aussie captain showed exemplary sportsmanship on another occasion by indicating that he had not caught the ball cleanly. And on 18, Adam Gilchrist failed to hold a sharp chance down the left side.
It was Laxman, who took the pressure off Dravid by playing his shots. Taking the ball on the rise, the stylish righthander was not afraid to hit through the line on a placid track that played true. As graceful cover drives and wristy flicks flowed from Laxman’s bat, Aussie pacers despaired.
With a few mistimed hits also reaching the boundary, Laxman raced to his half-century off just 43 balls, but not before he was floored on 45 by Gilchrist off Clark. Gilly, who had a bad day in office, had also failed to grab another offering from Laxman when he was on 77. The bowler to suffer was Lee.
Laxman brought up his 12th Test hundred by pulling Brad Hogg to the midwicket fence and celebrated by waving his bat all-round the stadium. Dravid too brought up his 50 soon after to double the joy in the Indian dressing room.
India’s joy was, however, short-lived as both batsmen suffered lapses in concentration and lost their wickets in successive overs. While Dravid went on his back foot and played away from his body to Johnson, Laxman was beaten in the flight by Hogg and spooned a simple catch to short cover. Tendulkar and Ganguly ensured that there was no further damage to leave the outcome of the Test hanging in the balance.
Earlier, Indian bowlers toiled hard to claim Australia’s three remaining wickets. Lee completed his half-century and was looking good for a ton when Bucknor adjudged him lbw to Anil Kumble despite getting a big stride forward. The Indian captain also picked up the remaining two wickets.
Andrew Symonds, who remained unbeaten on 162, got another gift from Bucknor, who failed to refer a stumping appeal off Kumble to the third umpire. Replays clearly showed Symonds was out.
Registered his third century in succession at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The previous two: 167 off 198 balls in 1999-00 and 178 off 298 balls in 2003-04. In 3 Tests, Laxman has aggregated 461 runs in four innings at 115.25. He is the only Indian batsman to hit 3 centuries at SCG. Tendulkar has scored two at this venue
He is now the third batsman in Test history to have recorded three successive centuries at SCG. England's Wally Hammond and Australia's Doug Walters are the other two
His 12th hundred in Tests is his fifth against Australia and his tally of five centuries in 18 Tests against Australia is exceeded only by Sunil Gavaskar's 8 in 20 and Sachin Tendulkar's 7 in 23 for India
Both Laxman and Tendulkar have hit four centuries each in Australia. The most by an Indian is by Sunil Gavaskar (5)
His 109 is now Laxman's highest Test score batting at No 3 away from home. His previous best was 100 vs West Indies at Basseterre in 2006. His other two centuries at No 3 are 281 against Australia at Kolkata in 2000-01 and 104 against Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad in 2005-06
Of his 12 Test centuries, Laxman has recorded 4 each at No 3 & No 6; 2 at No 5 and 1 each as an opener and at No 4.
Laxman has now aggregated 892 runs in 9 Tests at an average of 59.46 in Australia. His average is the best by an Indian in Australia (minimum qualification 500 runs)