An idea shot, an unholy reunion, and the nervous 99
I placed it there
In Chennai they call it the idea shot. Brett Lee had just been pulled by VVS Laxman in the gap between two men on the square boundary. Two balls later, Lee bowled a better bouncer, the ball rising right up to Laxman's face. Laxman fended at it, his eyes not on the ball, and off the glove it went between Brad Haddin and Matthew Hayden, at a wide lone slip. That boundary took Laxman to 78, and a bad day for Australia got worse.
The unholy reunion avoided
For most of the time that Laxman batted, Ricky Ponting stood at silly mid-on, right in front of Gautam Gambhir, the non-striker. On one occasion, Ponting turned and did a little shimmy, reminiscent of Simon Katich's move last evening when he got into a tangle with Gambhir. This time, though, it was all in good humour. Gambhir smiled, Ponting laughed, and the umpire did not have to get between the two men.
Laxman got to 99 off the 159th ball he faced, but Mitchell Johnson came up with a devious plan to keep him away from the century for as long as possible. With a packed off-side field, Johnson kept bowling wide outside off, testing Laxman's patience. He almost got the result when Laxman edged Cameron White to slip, but the ball bounced in front of the fielder. Apart from that one misjudgment Laxman kept his cool, and played out 11 dot balls before getting to his 100, via a cover-drive off White. He rolled his left arm over, after reaching the century, a gesture, according to Sunil Gavaskar doing TV commentary, meant for Zaheer Khan who had probably predicted Laxman would get the century.
Inspired bowling change, but too late
Ponting hasn't won himself many fans for his choices for bowling changes in this series. Today, he brought himself on even before Watson got a bowl. Watson had managed to contain the run-flow yesterday, but the last over he bowled was the 61st of the Indian innings. He had to wait till the 124th over to get the ball back, and he struck immediately, removing Gambhir in the first over he bowled.
Simon and Aleem
When he comes in at 444 for 5, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a dangerous man. He can manufacture shots in a way that nobody on the field, or in the crowd, is safe. He pummelled a half-tracker from Katich that stayed low straight down the ground. The ball travelled so fast that Aleem Dar had no time to get out of the way. And then Super Simon dived in front of him, risked his left hand, but prevented the ball from crossing the stumps. A relieved Dar waited for Katich to get up, and shook his hand in gratitude. The Indians will hope Dar forgets the incident by the time they start appealing against Katich the batsman.
Anticipation is the thing
Hayden has taken some special slip catches this series, but with the way Gambhir and Laxman batted, even he let down his guard at slip. You cannot blame a man who stood bending for 109 overs for one catch for not expecting any other offerings. Especially off Cameron White. But that's what happened when Gambhir played White for the turn, but the ball went straight on. Hayden was slow to react, and could not even get a hand to it.
How to get to the double
Laxman was on 198 and India were waiting to declare when Virender Sehwag decided he should help hurry things up. From the dressing room he tried to catch the batsman's attention and signalled a reverse-sweep as the shot Laxman should try to get to his landmark. Though it isn't clear whether Laxman saw what Sehwag intended him to do, he did jump out of the crease in the next ball and lofted Michael Clarke over long-on. Double-century was reached, declaration was made, cut to a smiling and satisfied Sehwag.