30 Oct : Gautam Gambhir struck his maiden double century while VVS Laxman, a familiar Australia nemesis, got his second as India sought to bury the visitors under a run mountain in the third cricket Test in New Delhi on Thursday.
Gambhir (206) and Laxman (200 not out) added 278 runs for the fourth wicket, laying bare the frailties of the Australian bowling attack in the process and then some brisk batting down the order helped India pile up 613 for seven before declaring their first essay 75 minutes after tea.
An exasperated Ricky Ponting pressed in service as many as seven Australian bowlers before deciding to bowl himself but in the end, the miracle he was looking for never really happened.
Australia 50 for no loss in reply to India’s 613/7 declared Australia were 50 for no loss in their reply with Simon Katich (29) and Matthew Hayden (16) in the middle, needing another 364 to avoid the ignominy of follow-on.
Gambhir’s career-best 206 came off 380 balls, with 26 fours and a six in it, while Laxman’s unbeaten 200 was the result of his 301-ball stay in the middle, during which he hit 21 fours.
Once India resumed their innings at 296 for three wickets, it was evident that there is something in the baggy green which brings out the best in Laxman.
Even the ultra-aggressive Gambhir was content admiring the stylish right-hander from the non-striker’s end as Laxman went on to torment the Australian bowlers.
Laxman opened the face of the blade to run down Stuart Clark for the first boundary of the morning and that opened the sluice gate.
What followed was a deluge of boundaries and the Australians were suddenly on a leather hunt. When he was not making those deft placements with his soft hands, Laxman was executing some breathtaking pull shots, the best of which came off a Mitchell Johnson delivery that scorched the grass in the mid-wicket region before crossing the ropes.
Not that Gambhir was silent all along. Against Australia’s toothless attack, self-destruction was the only way the Indians could get out and Gambhir was not ready to do anything silly and let the double century slip through his fingers.
So unlike his first century, the Delhi batsman tip-toed his way into the 190s and finally had his moment when he tucked Brett Lee for a single to reach the 200 mark.
The more-than-nine-hour stay in the middle, however, had started taking toll on his weary mind and a tired-looking Gambhir dragged a Shane Watson delivery on to the stumps to perish, not before establishing himself as the leading scorer in the ongoing series.
Australia soon had another celebration as Sourav Ganguly (5) could not make his final Kotla Test memorable and fell to Katich but that brought in Mahendra Singh Dhoni (27) and Australian bowlers started bleeding boundaries.
Back-to-back boundaries off Katich only whetted Dhoni’s appetite and he hit the bowler over his head for the maximum.
Watson also came in for some harsh treatment when he was smote for two successive boundaries but the pacer eventually settled score in the same over, getting Dhoni caught behind.
Anil Kumble (45) threw his bat around to good effect, hitting seven fours before Mitchell Johnson trapped him five-run shy of his fifty. Laxman went on to complete his 200 and Kumble immediately declared the innings.