The piece written by Peter Roebuck for MiD DAY on Day 5 of the India vs Australia Test at Mohali. India won by one wicket on October 5, 2010
Five days of fiercely contested cricket ended in the most thrilling manner as the Indians secured a victory that was as uplifting as defeat was heartbreaking. Grown men could not bear to watch as the final pair attempted to squeeze the last few runs from a grudging opponent. It was an unforgettable finish to a terrific match.
Emotions were pitched high. Elephants danced in stomachs as every ball was bowled and a roar greeted every pinched single. Laughter broke out as VVS Laxman started waving his arms and berating his partner (Pragyan Ojha) for lax running. One batsman was wrongly dispatched, another was amazingly reprieved and all the while the ground was agog. Four crucial overthrows were conceded by an alert fieldsman, aware the batsman had strayed from his crease. Was it a risk worth taking? Steve Smith missed by a whisker. Sometimes the line between hero and villain; victory and defeat, is wafer thin.
Laxman was the key figure on the final day. All things seem possible whilst he remains at the crease. Australians and tension bring out the best in him. Here he produced an astonishing array of strokes, pulls played without footwork caresses through cover and flicks off his hip. Laxman belongs against the giants.
Ishant Sharma offered him sound support in a nerveless collaboration. Both kept their heads. Some of their colleagues threw their wickets away. Ricky Ponting's side tried its utmost but was denied as much by its own limitations as by the wheel of fortune or the brilliance of its opponent. Still, the Australians had every reason to be proud of their performance. Ponting's side is not the most formidable to wear the famed green cap, but it does not lack determination. It took a wonderful innings from a superb batsman to deny them.
Australia came so close because its strong point overlapped with India's most glaring weakness. Ponting's team contains three pace bowlers as powerful as shire horses and so able to extract bounce from even the doziest of pitches. Not that the Mohali deck snoozed the entire match. Most of all, the Australians worked hard as a team. However the performance was not without its flaws. The middle order batting remains a headache.
Moreover, a few things did go the visitors' way. It had been a good toss to win and India was handicapped by injuries. Ultimately, the battle ended in favour of a vastly relieved home side. Regardless, it was a triumph for Test cricket. The thrill-a-minute versions of the game were put in their place by this slow burning contest.
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