Laxman guides India to victory
Mohali - Venkatsai Laxman defied a back injury to make an unbeaten 73 as India snatched a remarkable one-wicket victory from the jaws of defeat in the opening Test against Australia on Tuesday.
Needing 216 to win, India were facing defeat at 124/8 before Laxman came to his team's rescue with a brave knock under pressure on the fifth and final day, guiding his side to a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
Batting with a runner because of a stiff back, Laxman was well supported by tail-ender Ishant Sharma, who made a defiant 31 in an 81-run stand for the ninth wicket before being trapped leg-before by Ben Hilfenhaus (4-57).
Australia's last chance of winning the match came when left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson began his 17th over to last-man Pragyan Ojha, with India requiring six runs to win.
Ojha survived a confident appeal for leg-before and then an overthrow for four runs by substitute fielder Steven Smith considerably eased the pressure on India. The match ended with two leg-byes.
Laxman, who averages more than 50 in Tests against Australia, continued to flourish against them and reached his half-century in style off just 48 balls, pulling paceman Hilfenhaus for a four. His 79-ball knock contained eight fours.
India were under tremendous pressure after losing their eighth wicket at 124, but Laxman and Sharma held their nerve to sink Australia's hopes.
Sharma grew in confidence as the match progressed, hitting five fours in his 92-ball knock.
Fast bowler Doug Bollinger earlier grabbed two wickets in the morning session to keep alive Australia's hopes of winning the match.
Bollinger dismissed Sachin Tendulkar (38), the world's leading run-getter in both Tests and one-day internationals, in his second over.
Australia started the day with spin from one end and pace from the other, enjoying success in the seventh over when spinner Nathan Hauritz had nightwatchman Zaheer Khan (10) caught by Michael Clarke at first slip.
Hilfenhaus, who rattled India with three big wickets in the final session on Monday, beat the bat on a few occasions in his opening spell on a wearing track but failed to find the edge.
Tendulkar took no risks and waited patiently for loose deliveries to punish, driving and flicking off-spinner Hauritz for two fours. He later steered Hilfenhaus past gully for another boundary.
Australia celebrated when Tendulkar cut Bollinger to gully, where Michael Hussey took a good catch. The Indian hit five fours in his 64-ball knock, completing 1,000 Test runs this year in the process.
Pressure became the name of the game when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni walked in to bat, with his team needing 97 to win with only four wickets in hand.
Dhoni did not last long, making only two runs before being caught short of the crease by a direct-hit at the striker's end from Hilfenhaus who ran in from mid-off to throw down the stumps.
Australia continued to maintain the pressure and soon dismissed tail-ender Harbhajan Singh, caught by skipper Ricky Ponting in the slips off Bollinger for two.
The second and final Test starts in Bangalore on October 9.
V Sehwag, G Gambhir, R Dravid, SR Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, SK Raina, MS Dhoni (captain & wk), Harbhajan Singh, I Sharma, Z Khan, PP Ojha
SR Watson, SM Katich, RT Ponting (captain)
, MJ Clarke, MEK Hussey, MJ North, TD Paine (wk), NM Hauritz, MG Johnson, BW Hilfenhaus, DE Bollinger