Aussies wrap it up; Laxman heroics come too late

Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2000, 5:30 [IST]
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Australia achieved a "summer double" with a 3-0 win over India on Tuesday in Sydney. Earlier, in October -November, Australia outplayed Pakistan by an identical margin. In this third and final Test in Sydney the home team won by an innings and 141 runs.

On a terrible day for India, VVS Laxman 's willow spoke eloquently. He emerged as the most courageous Indian of this match with a marvellous 167. Laxman is essentially a middle-order batsman. At the international level, India often forced him to open the innings. In this series, he was number three in the Adelaide Test and made 41 and zero. In the Melbourne Test, he opened the innings and got 5 and one.

Here in this Test he opened again and made seven in the first knock. But, he did not find a place in India's team for the ODI triangular series starting from Jan 9. So Laxman was supposed to return home after this Test. What a telling message he has written to the national selectors and his detractors with today's magnificent knock. That is certainly an ironical situation. However, that is not uncommon in Indian cricket.

For him the innings began on a painful note. He was hit on the left side of his face by a rising ball from McGrath. But he stood brave and regaled the crowd with some delectable stroke-play on either side of the wicket. Australia, 331 for 4 overnight, went merrily to 552 for five - a massive first innings lead of 402. Justin Langer (167 yesterday) became the fifth Australian to make a double hundred. (The other four are Don Bradman, Greg Chappell, Kim Hughes and Dean Jones.) He made 223 before miscuing Tendulkar into the hands of Venkatesh Prasad at covers.

He and Ricky Ponting, his overnight partner, added 190 runs for the fifth wicket. Ponting, 34 overnight, sparkled through some superb strokes all-round the wicket and recorded his seventh Test hundred. He proved that he is one the few outstanding number six batsmen in the world. At the time of the declaration, Ponting was on 141 and Adam Gilchrist on 45. With about three hours and two full days left, India was left with an opportunity to regain its lost pride in this series. Would the Indian batsmen reveal the needed degree of devotion and determination to deny Australia success? They did not.

The Australian slip cordon has been doing an excellent job in this series. The Australians spotted the Indian weakness for rising deliveries and those swinging balls that leave the batsmen. They functioned accordingly throughout the series. Today, the make-shift opener MSK Prasad, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Hrishkesh Kanitkar were all victims of this famous Australian ploy. The Indians nudged and edged their way to disaster.

Sachin Tendulkar began imperiously. He pulled the first ball he faced from McGrath to the fence. But, in the same over, he was swallowed in the covers by Langer. Tendulkar's scores in the series read: 61and 0, 116 and 52, 45 and 4. At least on three occasions Tendulkar got harsh decisions from the umpires. At the end of this series he remains the lone Indian with his image intact. Dravid and Ganguly the two other batsmen, who formed a terrific Indian trio with Tendulkar, did not do anything worthy of their reputation. Laxman joined his skipper in the two-man list of Indian century makers.


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