Centurion: VVS Laxman celebrates his
milestone [GALLO/GETTY]
Australian bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Brad Hogg struck late to remove V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid just as the India pair was threatening another big partnership, in the end the visitors closed at 216 for three on the second day of the second test.

Laxman scored 109 and Dravid notched 53 in a 175-run second-wicket partnership as India made a strong reply to Australia's 463.

India will commence day three with Sachin Tendulkar (9) and Sourav Ganguly (21) at the crease.

Laxman and Dravid combined for 300 run-plus partnerships in two of India's last three wins over Australia, so the hosts were desperate to get them out.

"We got two crucial wickets right at the end there ... to get Dravid and Laxman,'' Australia paceman Brett Lee said.  

"For us to go in with one wicket down would have been a different story, but to get those two were brilliant. We're in a good spot right now.''

Positive thinking

Laxman said India, coming off a 337-run loss in the first test in Melbourne last week, was only thinking only of positive outcomes.

"I was disappointed that we lost two quick wickets because I really wanted to be not out and carry on tomorrow,'' Laxman said, adding that Tendulkar was eager to take up the challenge.

"I'm sure Sachin is going to get a double (hundred) tomorrow, he's looking forward to it, he's batting brilliantly.''

Tendulkar scored 241 of India's 705-7 declared in the draw here four years ago, the last time these teams met at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

"If Sachin and Sourav can build a big partnership we can have a big first innings total and put pressure on the Aussies,'' Laxman said.

India had Australia in trouble on the opening day at 134-6 before Andrew Symonds came to the rescue with a career-high unbeaten 162, helping add 329 with the last four batsmen.

Lee contributed 59 in a 114-run partnership with Symonds and then took the first Indian wicket with the total at eight, beating Wasim Jaffer for pace with an away-swinging yorker in the eighth over.

Rahul Dravid with a shot straight out of the
text book [GALLO/GETTY]
The run of the green

But for the next 45 overs, everything went India's way.

Laxman and Dravid had the benefit of some umpiring decisions and some uncharacteristically sloppy Australian fielding and were starting to build momentum when Johnson struck.

Dravid had just reached his 50th test 50 when he slashed outside off stump at Johnson and edged to Matthew Hayden at first slip.

He had just started to cut loose after another of his agonisingly cautious starts, with his 53 coming off 160 balls.

Laxman was in a more attacking frame, stroking 18 boundaries and making his third hundred in as many tests at the Sydney Cricket Ground before driving wrist spinner Hogg to Mike Hussey at short cover in the next over as India lost two wickets for two runs.

India missed out on some big opportunities on Wednesday, and it was Australia's turn on day two.

Adam Gilchrist, No. 2 on the list of most dismissals for a test wicketkeeper, put down two catches, missed two sharp chances and a potential stumping.

Lee was denied a confident lbw appeal against Laxman on 15, and Johnson missed out when Hussey claimed a catch in the gully off an edge from Dravid, but the TV umpire ruled it a bumped ball.

Sporting gesture

Ricky Ponting later declined to appeal for a catch because he was not sure if the ball touched grass as it reached his hands.

Dravid, on 47, had already started walking to the pavilion when Ponting signaled he was unsure if he'd taken the catch, so the Indian opener was recalled.

The incident was the latest in this test to raise the question of where honesty and sportsmanship sits in cricket.

Ponting had a reprieve in his own innings on Wednesday, then was given out lbw to Harbhajan Singh for 55 despite hitting the ball onto his pads.

Symonds, on the other hand, admitted he should have been given out when he edged a catch to the wicketkeeper on 30, but stood his ground and was given not out.

He also got the benefit of the doubt on 48 when the TV umpire ruled that a stumping decision was too close to call.

Symonds ran out of partners when Anil Kumble took the last three wickets on Thursday morning, but his innings ensured Australia's bid for a record-equalling 16th consecutive test win is still alive.

Source: Agencies