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Eden Gardens, 2001: The Highest Impact Batting Performance in India's Test Cricket History

By: Nikhil Narain

Last Updated: March 13, 2021, 13:56 IST

File image of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid. (Photo Credit: BCCI/ Twitter)

File image of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid. (Photo Credit: BCCI/ Twitter)

VVS Laxman's very very special 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2001 is the highest impact performance by an Indian batsman in Test cricket. The context of the match and series and the impact it had on the bilateral rivalry between the two countries underlines the significance of the performance.

Australia were the world champions across both the formats. They had won the 1999 World Cup in England and were almost unbeatable in Test cricket wherever they played. Led by Steve Waugh the Australian sides comprised some all-time greats of the game and collectively was one of the greatest teams to have played international cricket. They had thrashed India 3-0 in 1999 at home and were looking to conquer the final frontier.

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They seemed well on their way to achieving the goal in 2001. Australia thrashed India by 10 wickets in the series opener in Mumbai and were in the ascendancy in the second with a massive 274 lead in the first innings. India were asked to follow on. VVS Laxman joined Shin Sunder Das with the score at 52. Jason Gillespie gave India a double blow removing Das and Sachin Tendulkar in quick succession. The home team were reeling at 115 for 3. Meanwhile Laxman, who was India’s top-scorer in the first innings with a fluent 59 off just 83 deliveries which included 12 delightful boundaries, watched his partners go down from the other end.

In skipper, Saurav Ganguly, he found an able partner. Laxman scored his second fifty of the match on the very same day - Day 3 of the Test. The pair took India past the 200-mark and Laxman took control. He was at his classy best and up the ante soon registering a magnificent hundred off 166 deliveries. He hit as many as 17 fours in his knock. Laxman lost Ganguly after the pair had taken India to 232. The home team still trailed Australia by 42 with just six wickets in hand.

India ended Day 3 at 254 for 4 with Laxman unbeaten on 109 and Rahul Dravid undefeated on 7. Little did the world know what was in store on Day 4!

Laxman and Dravid batted through the entire day frustrating the great Australian bowling attack of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Shane Warne. Not only did the pair occupy the crease for the entire 90 overs scheduled for the day but also scored runs at a fair clip - which was significant as it was the third innings of the match.

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Laxman was the aggressor and at his fluent best - from silken straight drives to exquisite on drives to wristy flicks through mid-wicket - he was batting at a level seldom witnessed in international cricket history. The pair added 335 runs for India on a single day and changed the match on its head. During the course of the record 376-run partnership, Laxman registered a remarkable double hundred off just 304 deliveries - an innings which included 35 fours which meant that 140 of his 200 runs had come in boundaries alone!

India ended Day 4 at 589 for 4 with Laxman unbeaten on 275 and Dravid on 155. The stand was finally broken early on Day 5 when McGrath dismissed Laxman for 281. The Very Very Special batsman from Hyderabad had faced 452 deliveries and spent a total of 631 minutes at the crease.

Harbhajan Singh then took control and routed Australia for 212 handing India a famous 171-run series-levelling victory. India went on to win the series as the off spinner produced the performance of a lifetime in Chennai.

The roots of this sensational series win - hailed as India’s greatest in their Test history - lay in the colossal partnership between Laxman and Dravid on Day 3, the 13th of March, 2001, at the Eden Gardens. Laxman had done the initial hardwork even as wickets fell around him. He had provided Dravid with the platform to settle into his groove and play a big match-defining knock for India.

India became only the third team in Test history to win a match after being asked to follow-on. Laxman’s performance in the match - his fifty in the first innings and brilliant 281 in the second is the highest impact batting performance by an Indian batsman in Test cricket and one of the greatest performances by any batsman in the history of the game!

The context and situation of the match and the overall impact of Laxman’s performance on the series and the historical bilateral rivalry between the two nations make his achievement very very special and one of the proudest moments in India’s Test cricket history!​

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first published:March 13, 2021, 13:56 IST
last updated:March 13, 2021, 13:56 IST