Mohali: VVS Laxman battled back pain and guided tail-enders during his 73-run not out effort to register a heroic Indian win in the first Test against Australia at Mohali on Tuesday, beating the visitors by a solitary wicket after the Indian middle-order committed hara-kiri and fell like ninepins in the first session.
Laxman, who has been the Australian nemesis for the past decade, played a 'Very Very Special' innings but received little support from the other end as the visitors remained favourites to win the Test.
The turning point on day five came when Ishant Sharma strode in at the fall of Harbhajan Singh's wicket. The long-legged pacer not only buckled down but put on 81 runs for the ninth-wicket with Laxman, hitting a few plucky fours in the match-winning partnership.
Earlier, Sachin Tendulkar (38) and Zaheer Khan (10) started in a positive manner.
Rather than trying to defend in the first hour, both were keen on playing their shots. While Tendulkar struck some well-timed boundaries off Nathan Hauritz, Zaheer ran a couple and a few singles to keep the scoreboard moving.
Zaheer hung around for half an hour and it looked like the night-watchman's vigil would allow MS Dhoni and Laxman ease into the 216-run chase.
But Michael Clarke took an easy catch off Hauritz to dismiss him in the slip.
Then came Laxman and the manner in which he started, it never looked like he was suffering from back spasms and in unbearable pain for the last couple of days.
He announced his arrival with back-to-back boundaries off Hauritz. First a cover drive and then a back-foot punch through the extra cover.
The best one came with the back-foot punch off Bollinger which was hit with minimum fuss.
With Tendulkar for company, the duo added 43 runs in only 6.1 overs and it looked like India were in cruise mode for a while.
Tendulkar's 38-run knock in 64 balls included five hits to the boundary. He was the man who carried Indian hopes of victory.
It seemed he wanted to silence the critics who have questioned his ability to finish off matches in the fourth innings of a Test match.
But just before the first drinks break of the morning session, Tendulkar tried an ambitious upper-cut off Bollinger delivery that rose but didn't get the required elevation and Mike Hussey took a smart catch at gully.
Tendulkar's wicket was exactly the tonic Aussies needed to spur themselves on.
The visitors absolutely pounced on to the opening and went on a wicket-taking spree, running out Dhoni (2) in a suicidal attempt by the Indian skipper for a single. He was found short of Ben Hilfenhaus' throw into Tim Paine's gloves, who removed the bails in quick time.
Harbhajan Singh also didn't last long gloving a Bollinger short ball to Ricky Ponting at second slip.
But Ishant Sharma staked claims for an elevation among the tail-enders with a gritty knock, with Laxman there as a masterly support.
India needed under 15 when Ishant fell but it was a day that Pragyan Ojha would like to remember forever. He fought a few nervy overs but to his credit, stayed put with Laxman. The Aussies conceded a boundary off an overthrow when Indian needed six.
And with two needed, a delivery down Ojha's leg stump was all that the left-armer needed to give him two leg-byes that took India to a historic win.
(With inputs from PTI)