Mohali: Vangipurappu Laxman revived his role as Australia’s chief tormentor with a magnificent unbeaten 73 to script India’s unlikely one-wicket victory in the first test on Tuesday.
Resuming on 55 for four and chasing a victory target of 216, India appeared dead and buried in the last hour before lunch but an 81-run ninth wicket stand between Laxman and Ishant Sharma set up the opening win in a two-test series.
India had lost a flurry of wickets to slip to 124-8 but Sharma contributed 31 valuable runs in his partnership with Laxman, who was batting with a runner due to a bad back, before the hosts scrambled over the finish line in a frantic climax.
When play began, India needed 161 runs to win while Australia required six wickets in an absorbing test but the reliable Laxman kept his head as wickets tumbled, managing the tail to perfection in denying Ricky Ponting a first win in India as skipper.
Tuesday’s innings adds to Laxman’s reputation as a thorn in Australia’s side with all but one of his five 150-plus scores coming against them, including a 281 in Kolkata nine years ago that led a following-on India to a stunning win.
Going into the final day, local hopes rested on overnight batsman Sachin Tendulkar (38) but the prolific and talismanic batsman threw his wicket away with a poor shot to depart just when his team needed him most.
Earlier, Nathan Hauritz had made Australia’s initial breakthrough by ending overnight batsman Zaheer Khan’s 34-ball vigil.
Paceman Doug Bollinger then took over, removing Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, the latter wicket coming after India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni ran himself out to compound the home side’s crisis.
Laxman and Sharma, however, did not panic and played deliveries on merit as the hosts eventually completed what is the fourth highest successful chase on Indian soil.
Bangalore hosts the second test from 9 October.