DAY 4 EDEN GARDENS 2001
It has been 15 years since that epic day 4 of the Kolkata test took place but no one has forgotten about it nor anyone will be able to.
India came into the series with heaps of negativity around them. The team had recently faced the match-fixing controversy and Captain Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar were banned from international cricket. Tendulkar was asked to take the captaincy but he turned down the offer. Therefore, a player with little international experience named “Sourav Chandidas Ganguly” was given the job to handle the team.
The Australians were coming into this match with their world record of 16 Test wins in a row. In the first test in Mumbai, they comprehensively beat the hosts by 10 wickets. In their last encounter with the Indians back in 1999-00, they had won the series 3-0 and the whitewashed the tourists.
A lot of hype was created around the series when Steve Waugh described it “The Final Frontier” as the Australians have never won a test series in India. Ganguly was also creating some off-field hype. He was instrumental in playing mind games by coming very late for the toss which obviously irritated Waugh.
Coming into the third day, Aussies enforced the follow-on which say India start their second innings with a deficit of 274 runs. By the stumps of day 3, India found itself at 254 at the loss of four wickets with Laxman batting at 109 and Dravid at 7. Waugh must have thought that he is ready to seal the series since Tendulkar and Ganguly were back in the pavilion.
But some unexpected miracle was waiting to happen. Who knew that sending VVS at 3 and Dravid at 6 would change the fate of the series and the face of Indian Cricket. The Eden crowd witnessed a legendary display of proper test cricket batting. VVS and Dravid batted the entire fourth day out by getting the third highest fifth wicket partnership in the history of Test Cricket.
By the end of the fourth day, VVS was unbeaten at 275 while Dravid was at 155 taking the score to 589. VVS is remembered for playing some unnatural strokes, especially against Warne. The leggie was bowling in the rough patches but Laxman was stepping out of the crease playing the shot on the either side of the wicket at will. Dravid who was going through a poor run made 180 before getting dismissed. But it was Laxman who stole the limelight by breaking the record for the highest score by an Indian. He was finally dismissed at 281. People normally forget about Dravid’s contribution but they also know that 281 was impossible without 180.
India went on to win this match and making it only the third instance in cricket history of winning after being enforced the follow-on. Warne was later asked by Ian Chappell about his bowling to which the leggie replied “I think I bowled well today but that was some extraordinary batting”.
In Wisden Cricketers Almanack list of 100 greatest test innings, Laxman’s 281 was given the sixth position. Though Australians lost the series but they do admit that it was one of the best series they have ever been a part of. Many cricket experts even admit that no discussion about the history of Indian Cricket is complete without the inclusion of Vangipurapu Venkata Sai Laxman’s 281.
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