Peter English
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Former Australasia editor, ESPNcricinfo

Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 2nd day

Australia bow to very, very special batsman

As Laxman left the field, having made a sublime hundred, those watching knew they had witnessed something special

Peter English

January 3, 2008

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"The word 'Laxman' causes two reactions from Australian players: they cower at the thought of the previous treatment and praise him like a deity" © Getty Images
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In the same way the rest of the world does not understand why it took Michael Hussey so long to get a Test, Australians can't believe VVS Laxman always seems on the verge of being dropped. While most touring batsmen are frightened whenever they see baggy green, the colour turns Laxman on and allows him to lose the cloud that hangs around him everywhere else.

He is no longer a one-day player and if this series was in another country it would be his name that was raised whenever talk turned to dropping an Indian batsman. Nobody here can work out why it is even considered. The word "Laxman" causes two reactions from Australian players: they cower at the thought of the previous treatment and praise him like a deity.

They have seen such an angelic man turn wicked at home and away, where his brutally refined strokes generate inward and outward awe from his peers. He plays in a way even the most talented Australians dream of. Standing tall on his toes, his caresses seem from the past, when boundaries were painted rather than powered. Hearing the ball concertina into the bat is the only disturbance as his back-lift drops into the follow through.

It is a swing the Australians have got to know well over the past decade and his 109 was Laxman's fifth hundred against them in 18 Tests. Young children mark Christmas and birthdays years ahead on their calendars and Laxman must do the same with his Australia appointments. Ricky Ponting probably does it too and spends months praying Laxman has a quiet series, like he did in 2004-05. A special page is saved for the SCG.

Eight years ago at the ground Laxman left behind his insecurity and swept Australia for 167, an innings that gave him the confidence for his epic 281, which led to the end of Steve Waugh's winning streak at 16. When Laxman is partnered with Rahul Dravid the sight is even more frightening for Australia, who are aiming to level Waugh's record over the rest of the week.

Dravid and Laxman turned the 2001 Test in Kolkata before combining on the previous tour in Adelaide to set up another rare defeat. Laxman eased to 148 in that game before adding 178 in the final match in Sydney. This innings has joined his bulging file of outstanding achievements against Australia.

Waving boundaries off both feet through cover, he transfixed the SCG crowd during the second session that revived India and the series. Mitchell Johnson was taken for 18 from five balls as Laxman split a crowded offside field and when he grew bored of hitting to cover, he worked towards square leg and mid-on with shots few Australians would have considered - or known how to play.

Unlike in Laxman's previous splurges, Australia were not flattened by his attacking bursts. Rather than trying to dismiss him with each delivery, which had added to their problems previously, they were able to stick to their preferred tight approach and limit the damage. His output was reduced from 57 off 47 deliveries to a strike-rate of 76.76 when he chipped to Hussey at short cover. It was a surprise end to a wonderful innings. As Laxman walked off the SCG the supporters again knew they had seen something very, very special.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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