West Indies v India, 3rd Test, St Kitts, 4th day June 25, 2006

Laxman's hard graft

Under pressure to keep his place in the side, VVS Laxman produced an uncharacteristic but vital knock under pressure

To say that VVS Laxman was under pressure going in to bat in the third Test in St Kitts would be a huge understatement: in his three earlier innings in the series, he had scored 29, 31 and 0. It wasn't just that he hadn't got the runs; he had made it worse for himself by getting out in utterly irresponsible fashion. In fact, the pre-match talk was all about Laxman making way for an extra bowler.

On the fourth day of the match, Rahul Dravid will be relieved he didn't make that decision, as Laxman grafted a hundred that might have saved India from defeat. The way he went about his innings spoke of the pressure he was under: initially he was all circumspection, carefully defending deliveries he would normally have caressed quite emphatically to the fence, and letting plenty of balls go by. His first 50 runs took him all of 143 balls, a scoring rate of two runs per over. He defended or left alone almost 62% of deliveries, and even his 42 drives only fetched him 30 runs.

Gradually, though, the rhythm returned, and his second 50 took him only 88 balls. His driving improved too as the innings wore on - he went on the drive 35 times, and scored 34. And even though he was dour and circumspect for much of his innings, his in-control factor was still a high 92% for the entire innings, indicating that his defence was sound. He never reached the heights that he is capable of, but for a batsman in the throes of a slump, this innings was a vital one, and it could be even more crucial if India end up saving the Test.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo