|Ojha runs to celebrate with Laxman after standing firm at the crease to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat [AFP]|
VVS Laxman scored a brilliant unbeaten 73 as India clung on to win an incredible first Test against Australia by one wicket – while two dubious lbw decisions made all the difference in Mohali.
Tail-ender Ishant Sharma looked to have saved the match as he put on a ninth-wicket stand of 81 with Laxman but he was given out leg-before by a delivery that was swinging outside leg from Ben Hilfenhaus.
That left the hosts needing 11 runs to win with last man Pragyan Ojha at the crease with Laxman.
But with six to win, Mitchell Johnson caught Ojha plumb lbw only for the batsman to be given not-out by umpire Billy Bowden – and a poorly backed up shy at the wickets from Steven Smith gave India four overthrows.
Two leg byes knocked off the total and sent relief surging round the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium as Laxman finished unbeaten on 73.
It also put paid to the chance of only the third tied match in Test history.
‘One of the best’
“It’s one of best and most exciting Test matches I’ve played in,” said Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who has never led the side to a Test victory in India.
|Day five scorecard|
Australia first innings 428
“Full credit to India for fighting out the win today. They outplayed us today, we weren’t quite good enough.”
Resuming on 55 for four wickets on Tuesday and chasing a victory target of 216, India appeared dead and buried in the last hour before Laxman and Sharma set up the opening win in a two-Test series.
India had lost a flurry of wickets to slip to 124-8 but Sharma contributed 31 crucial runs in his partnership with Laxman, who was batting with a runner due to a bad back.
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.
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, the world’s leading run-scorer in both Tests and one-day internationals, in his second over for 38.
Spinner Nathan Hauritz earlier had nightwatchman Zaheer Khan 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.
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.