| V.V.S. Laxman pulls one en route to his 75 on Sunday. (AFP)
Brisbane: Sourav Ganguly made the mighty Australians dance to his tune with a classy 144 as India gained a psychological edge by taking first innings lead in the first Test at the Gabba on Sunday.
The pre-series Australian ploy of pressurising the Indian captain with “chin music” backfired as Sourav responded with characteristic grit to notch up his maiden ton against the world champions.
At stumps on the penultimate day, India were 362 for six, a lead of 39 runs, with Parthiv Patel on 37 and Ajit Agarkar on 12 at the crease. It was the first time Steve Waugh’s team was conceding first innings lead in 13 home Tests.
Sourav showed no signs of nerves as he unleashed a flurry of strokes to expose the chinks in the Australian armour after Sachin Tendulkar fell to a shocking lbw decision by umpire Steve Bucknor for duck, which reduced the visitors to 62 for three. TV replays showed that the ball which pitched outside off would have gone above the stumps.
The Indian captain found superb support in the stylish V.V.S. Laxman as the duo pulled the team out of the pits with a 146-run fourth wicket partnership on a rain-free day.
Sourav’s 144 was the highest by an Indian captain Down Under and the highest by an Indian at the Gabba.
With just one day left, the match seems to be heading for a draw but the Indians not only proved that they were no pushovers but silenced many critics who had written them off before the start of the series.
Sourav and Laxman came together with India, at 127 for four, staring at a collapse. The tourists had just lost Akash Chopra who displayed lots of guts during his knock of 36. His 65-run association with Sourav for the fourth wicket was beginning to pull the tourists out of the hole. But Chopra, after his 181-minute vigil, edged Jason Gillespie to Matthew Hayden.
Earlier, Virender Sehwag overcame his poor form but not before being dropped on 16 by Damien Martyn in the slip cordon of Nathan Bracken.
But he was out prodding outside off stump to give Hayden the first of his three catches, while also becoming Bracken’s first Test scalp. His wicket was followed by the dismissal of vice-captain Rahul Dravid whose low edge off Gillespie was smartly taken by Hayden at first slip.
Sourav and Laxman dished out some top quality entertainment for the fans. Sourav began by cutting the seamers over the slip cordon and driving through the covers.
Laxman at the other end played some exhilarating cricket. He rocked on the back foot to club Bichel to square-leg and then punched him through mid-wicket. He saved his best for leg-spinner Stuart MacGill whom he drove against the turn past mid-on twice for fours.
Agarkar too had his moments to celebrate. After pushing MacGill to mid-on to open his account with a hurried single, he raised his bat in acknowledgement. He had broken the sequence of five consecutive Test ducks on his last visit to Australia.