Laxman bats through pain to inspire India to remarkable one-wicket victory

Australia 428 &amp; 192 India 405 &amp; 216-9 <i>(India win by one wicket)</i>
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The Independent Online

Mahendra Singh Dhoni praised a "very special" innings from V V S Laxman after the veteran batsman helped India pull off a sensational one-wicket victory over Australia in the first Test here at Mohali yesterday.

Laxman defied a back injury that forced him to bat down at seven with a runner to steer his side home from the brink of defeat with an unbeaten 73 on a turning final-day wicket. Australia had looked to be cruising to victory after they had reduced Dhoni's side to 124 for 8 before lunch, with the hosts still needing 92 runs for an improbable success. The 35-year-old from Hyderabad then began a remarkable fightback in the company of Ishant Sharma (31) and powered India to a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series.

"If he [Laxman] is at the crease then no matter what field you set he can rotate the strike, hit boundaries and keep the scoreboard ticking," Dhoni said. "He is a remarkable batsman. He was injured in the first innings but the way he batted in the second was very special."

Laxman added 81 runs for the ninth wicket with Ishant after the team had collapsed, losing four wickets in the morning session.

Ishant was unluckily adjudged lbw to Ben Hilfenhaus with 11 still required, and last man Pragyan Ojha survived a shout when he was also rapped on the pads right in front of the stumps.

"The character shown by Ishant Sharma and, of course, V V S Laxman was special," Dhoni added. Dhoni also praised his bowlers including man of the match Zaheer Khan, who took 8 for 137 and reached the 250-wicket mark in his 73rd Test.

"We lost Ishant in the first innings and we had to bowl with three bowlers and the wicket was quite flat," he added. "I thought the way we bowled in the second and third sessions [of the first day] was remarkable and brought us back in the game."

The Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, gave full credit to India for "fighting it out" in one of the most thrilling matches he had played. "It's one of the best, most exciting Test matches I've played in my life and I've played nearly 150 now and this one is right up there with the best," he said.

The second Test begins in Bangalore on Saturday.

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