We were wary of Laxman - Ponting
Australia's bowlers had been wary of VVS Laxman, despite his bad back, going into the fifth day at Mohali, Ricky Ponting has said. Laxman overcame his injury to play another nerveless innings against his favourite opposition and shepherd the tail to victory.
"Just having some dinner last night with a few guys I was sitting with, I really felt that [we should beware] the wounded player [Laxman], and batting down the order I felt he would make a big contribution today," Ponting said. "I was trying to make sure that we weren't thinking they were going to be a batsman down again in the second innings and get too carried away."
Laxman batted at No. 10 in the first innings and sat out the fourth morning as Australia set India a target. He could not bat at his usual No. 6 position on the fourth evening as India's chase ran into rough weather. The Indian team said he would bat on the last day if required, and he walked out at the fall of the nightwatchman Zaheer Khan. Laxman stood tall as India lost wickets and guided the tail to victory.
"Even with that [bad back] today he showed what sort of class player he is," Ponting said. "He has been a bit of a thorn in our side there's no doubt about that, I guess him and Sachin [Tendulkar] would be the two who've done the most damage over the years, a couple of guys who've played a lot against us and have got good records against us. I hope his back's pretty sore for next week as well and he can't play."
Things went against Australia through the fifth day. Doug Bollinger, who had joined the team late after the Champions League, was forced off the field with an abdominal strain in the middle of a very good spell. Then, with India's last pair requiring six runs to win the game, Pragyan Ojha survived a close lbw shout and Steven Smith missed a direct hit that could have ended the match, but ended up conceding four overthrows.
"That's what we expect from our guys, we expect that when there's a half chance there that they'll want to take it. There's no blame at all towards Smith for having a shot at the stumps, if that was me I would have done exactly the same thing.
"It probably doesn't help," Ponting said of Bollinger's hurried preparation for the game after the Champions League. "But he had been bowling, and that was one positive for Doug, that he had been playing competitive cricket. He probably hasn't been bowling the amount of overs in the Champions Leauge that some of the others have had coming over here, but he has been playing and arrived a couple of days before the game.
"I thought his spell today was probably the best he's bowled during the game, so disappointing for him to go down at the end there. I went to grab his hat off him for the start of his next over and he said he felt some pain in one of his abdominals, and being a fast bowler and having that sort of injury I just sent him off the ground straight away."
The match was marred by some questionable umpiring decisions. Michael Hussey and Gautam Gambhir got rough calls on the fourth day, while Ishant Sharma was sent on his way today with the game in the balance, before the lbw appeal against Ojha. After a match of such close margins, Ponting reaffirmed his faith in the UDRS, the use of which had been refused by India at the start of this series.
"I'm a big supporter of the UDRS, I actually queried the ICC before the series started about the reason why we weren't using the system," Ponting said. "One thing I know about the system so far is that you definitely get more correct decisions in a game of cricket than you do without it, we understand how difficult a job it is for the umpires out there. There's no doubt, take this Test match alone, with the use of the system here I think we would've have a lot more right decisions in the game."