An innings that ended Australia’s 16-match world record winning streak. An innings that humbled the Aussies.
Who is capable of producing surprising results that go against the odds? For a generation, it was surely VVS Laxman. A player, who defied all the odds and made the impossible possible so many times.
However, the right-handed Hyderabadi batsman will always be remembered for one particular inning. VVS Laxman’s knock of 281 at Eden Gardens will forever be etched in every Indian cricket fan’s memory.
It was one man taking on the best bowling lineup at that time with the equations, well, not so simple.
What was so special about the inning?
“If 167 changed the way I viewed cricket, 281 altered the cricket world’s perception of India,” said VVS Laxman in one of his interviews to Wisden India.
It was the 2nd test match of Border Gavaskar trophy in 2001. India were 1-0 down in the series and a lot of people were on the backs of Indian cricketers including the former Indian captain bemoaning the downfall of Indian cricket.
The 2nd test match was at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Australia won the toss and elected to bat. Australia posted a total of 445 in the first innings. India’s reply was not so great and the visitors bundled them out for 171. VVS Laxman made a fighting 59, however, the rest of the Indian batting lineup could not face the wrath of Glenn McGrath.
India was forced to follow-on.
It needed a miracle from here for India to scruff out a draw let alone win it and what followed, as they say, is history. VVS Laxman was sent up the order at No. 3 in 2nd innings. It proved to be a masterstroke. He joined hands with none other than Rahul Dravid to save India from getting doomed.
They batted the whole Day 4 and made a 376 runs partnership. VVS Laxman was poetry in motion. He hit 44 boundaries and had them Aussies jumping for mercy. VVS Laxman made 281 while Dravid got run out on 180.
It was what you call ‘Roy of The Rovers’ stuff. Long on, Mid-wicket Covers – You name it, Laxman hit them in every part of the ground.
Very Very Stylish Laxman’s words
“281 was a significant achievement as far as I am concerned because the situation we were in (that Test match). And also I was not fit enough to play that Test match. Hemang Badani was there in the physio room when I walked into (former physio) Andrew Leipus, who actually I feel because of him I was able to play the Test match,” Laxman recalled at the Mumbai launch of his book ‘281 and Beyond’.
How Aussies’ Reacted
In his tribute, one of seven by participants in the Test, leg-spin legend Shane Warne recalled: “I was bowling in the footmarks and Laxman was hitting the same ball through cover or whipping it through midwicket. It was so hard to bowl then.”
In an interview with ESPN, Ricky Ponting remembers that “his work through the leg side, in particular, was a source of wonderment to many of us… Ultimately we bowled for near enough to two days at him without even looking like getting him out.”
A Day that redefined Indian Cricket
India declared at 657/7 and gave Australia a total of 383 to chase. Harbhajan Singh’s excellent piece of bowling on the final day proved just too much for the Aussies. They eventually bailed out for 212 handing India a memorable victory by 171 runs.
It is no exaggeration to say that this match, and day 4 in particular, changed the entire complexion of Indian cricket. The Indian side was reeling from the betting scandal, and a crushing defeat under a new captain might have put a generation off Test cricket.
Day 4 of the second test match was arguably the most pivotal day in the history of Indian cricket. This match can clearly define a before and after periods in Indian cricket. Things were never the same after the 4th day.
Eden Gardens might cherish Sourav Ganguly more than other players but it will forever be remembered for witnessing VVS Laxman’s special 281.
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