| V.V.S. Laxman avoids a bouncer during his innings of 74 against Queensland Academy of Sport in Brisbane on Sunday. (AP)
Brisbane: V.V.S. Laxman’s 74 was the only saving grace for India who were restricted to 208 for nine declared by the Queensland Academy of Sport on the second day of their three-day match.
The Indians batted disastrously to finish their innings with a first-innings deficit of 96 that swelled further as the hosts reached 79 for two in their second innings at stumps on Sunday.
India skipper Sourav Ganguly had said before the start of the game that it was difficult to achieve a result in a three-day game, but the hosts intend to do exactly that on the final day.
“For sure we are looking to press the issue,” declared Lee Carsledine, the first-innings centurion who was unbeaten on 31 in the second essay.
Starting the day at 17 for three, the visitors suffered an immediate blow when Sourav was dismissed for six to make the score a precarious 26 for four.
Laxman then played an elegant knock of 74, which came off 150 balls in 217 minutes. He struck ten fours and a six before a delivery from off-spinner Chris Simpson bent back his off stump. He had jumped from 50 to 74 in 11 deliveries as he opened out in the afternoon after digging in his heels in the morning session.
Laxman shared a useful stand of 77 from 220 balls with Rahul Dravid, who looked neat in his 38-run essay before tamely lobbing a catch to short mid-wicket off fast bowler Joe Dawes.
Laxman hit some marvellous off-side drives and once went down on his knees to smash off-spinner Simpson over mid-wicket for six, but his dismissal came at the wrong time for the Indians. He had built up a swift stand of 42 (off 43 balls) for the sixth wicket with Sadagopan Ramesh before missing out on what appeared to be a certain century. Ramesh again wasted a very good start by dashing down the wicket for a non-existent single and failed to regain ground after being turned back late by partner Parthiv Patel.
The home team lost an early wicket when Chris Simpson departed leg-before to Irfan Pathan but then the youngsters made good use of the remaining overs. The home team powered to a score of 79 for two by close with Carsledine and Daniel Payne sharing a second-wicket stand of 67 runs.
Talking about India’s chances Down Under, Laxman said: “Their results show they are one of the best sides ever in Test cricket but then we feel they are beatable. You have to look about your strengths instead of thinking about the opposition’s strong points,” said Laxman. “We certainly have the potential to do it.
“This team has really done well abroad for the past one and a half years or so. The team is improving and we are travelling a lot better than we used to do before.”
Laxman preferred not to look at the negatives of this tour and instead declared he had his personal targets to contribute to the team’s success. “Look at it this way, Ramesh and Sachin got runs in the first game and Rahul looked very well in this game before he unfortunately got out,” he said.
“I have personal targets but it very much depends on the circumstances because I bat at number six. But I am really looking forward to do well and play match-winning knocks.”
Laxman declared he had learnt a lot on the last tour of Australia in 1999-2000 even though the team itself suffered a disastrous 0-3 drubbing.
“It was a great learning experience for me. My game really changed after that tour. These were different wickets and I realised I could play more strokes.
“I feel if you settle down, you could probably play more strokes in Australia than even in India!”
“I’m happy with this first game as I was really disappointed at missing out in Victoria because of ill-health. The most important thing was I could occupy the crease and bat for four hours.
“This wasn’t really a mediocre bowling. I thought they bowled really good line and length and the left-armer (Scott Bryant) really swung the ball very well last evening.”
Laxman said those who missed out on a good outing in the first innings would love to have another crack on Monday. “A few batters are not among runs and it would be nice if they have a few under their belt tomorrow,” Laxman said. “If set a target we could also go for a win, it would be great to have a win behind us before the first Test.”
Hayden drops in
The Indian team had a surprise visitor during nets at the Allan Border Field on Sunday — world record-holder Matthew Hayden.
Queenslander Hayden, who skipped the Pura Cup game against South Australia in Adelaide which finished today, dropped in when the Indians were practising and chatted with the players. The left-handed opener spoke at length to Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, before sharing pleasantries with Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. Hayden had a close look at the Indians in nets and, after the visitors were through, himself knocked around a few balls.