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The Indian Batting Performance Of The Century

The winner: VVS Laxman – 281 v Australia and the full list of nominees.

The winner:

VVS Laxman – 281 v Australia
Kolkata, March 13, 14 and 15, 2001
VVS Laxman’s 281 was much more than a mere matchwinner; it restored a nation’s faith in their cricket team and turned around a series in which India were being drubbed by world champions Australia. Trailing by 274 runs in the first innings of the second Test at Kolkata, Laxman walked in at 52 for 1 in India’s second essay against a marauding Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie. By the time Laxman had finished, India had batted through an entire day without losing a wicket, and had enough runs on the board and time on hand to force a win. Laxman was sublime in his strokeplay against the fast bowlers, and his twinkle-toed footwork had Shane Warne in a tizzy. The spectators at the Eden Gardens were delirious with joy; the best team in the world had been vanquished.


Full chronological list of all the nominees:

Lala Amarnath – 118 v England
Bombay, December 17 and 18, 1933
India were playing only their second Test – their first at home – and were heading towards an innings defeat when Lala Amarnath strode to the crease in the second innings. Over the next couple of hours, he launched a dazzling counterattack, punishing anything even fractionally off line and length. He reached his century in under two hours, and was finally dismissed for a brilliant 118. England won the Test, but Amarnath’s knock asserted that India would not be fazed by any team.

Mushtaq Ali – 112 v England
Old Trafford, July 27 and 28, 1936
India trailed by a massive 368 runs in the first innings when Mushtaq Ali went out to open the batting with Vijay Merchant. Over the next few hours, the crowd at Old Trafford was treated to some spectacular batting as Mushtaq repeated advanced down the track to fast bowler Gubby Allen, and pulled deliveries outside off to the leg side. By close of play, Mushtaq had made 106, as a record 588 had been scored in a day. He was finally dismissed for 112 the next day, after a first-wicket partnership of 203, but he had done enough to save the Test, and capture the imagination of the Englishmen.

Vijay Hazare – 145 v Australia
Adelaide, January 27 and 28, 1948
Pitted against Bradman’s Invincibles, the Indian team were up against it. Australia made 674 and India were struggling at 69 for 3 when Vijay Hazare walked in. Showing exemplary technique and courage, he ground out 116 out of a total of 381. He barely had time to put his feet up after this effort – following on, India were reduced to 0 for 2, and Hazare was out in the middle again. Wickets tumbled around him, but he held firm, making 145 out of India’s 277. India lost, but Hazare’s knocks won him encomiums from many, including Don Bradman, who called him a ‘great player’.

Vijay Hazare – 122 v West Indies
Bombay, February 8, 1949
Down 0-1 in the five-match series, India needed 361 runs in the last innings of the fifth Test to level the series. It was a tall order, and looked impossible when India lost both openers and captain Lala Amarnath for only 81 runs. Vijay Hazare came in, and immediately played with a calm assurance which must have relaxed the dressing-room nerves. He went on to score a masterful 122 as India closed at 355 for 8, just six short of victory.

Vinoo Mankad – 184 v England
Lord’s, June 21 and 23, 1952
The Lord’s Test in 1952 belonged to Vinoo Mankad. He wasn’t in the Indian squad originally, but was called up from the Lancashire league to assist an Indian team terrorized by Fred Trueman. Mankad responded magnificently. Opening the batting, he made 72 out of India’s 235. Then, he sent down 73 overs of left-arm spin, taking 5 for 196. But the best was still to come. In the second innings, Mankad made a glorious 184, standing up to the pace of Trueman and Alec Bedser, and the spin of Jim Laker and Roly Jenkins with consummate skill. It was the highest Test score by an Indian, till Polly Umrigar scored 223 against New Zealand four years later.

Polly Umrigar – 172* v West Indies
Port-of-Spain, April 7, 1962
It was a wretched tour of the West Indies – India lost all five Tests and Nari Contractor got a life-threatening blow on his head from Charlie Griffith – but Polly Umrigar’s undefeated 172 in the second innings of the fourth Test went a long way in lifting the spirits in the dressing room. Taking inspiration from Salim Durani’s 104 in the same innings, Umrigar went for his strokes, even against the extreme pace of Wesley Hall, who had terrorized the Indian batsmen throughout the series. It wasn’t enough to save the match, but it made the Indians realize that the West Indian quicks could be handled.

MAK Pataudi – 148 v England
Headingley, June 12 and 13, 1967
India’s tour of England in 1967 was a dismal one. It was an unusually wet summer, and injuries to key players made it even worse. Amid the gloom, captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi provided the high point of the tour, scoring a splendid 148 in the second innings of the first Test at Headingley. India trailed by a massive 386 runs on first innings, but Pataudi’s fighting knock restored Indian pride, even though England won the Test by six wickets.

Gundappa Viswanath – 139 v West Indies
Calcutta, December 29 and 31, 1974
Two-down in the five-match series, India needed an inspirational performance to get back in the series against West Indies. With Sunil Gavaskar out injured, the nation looked to Gundappa Viswanath. He didn’t let them down. Against a pace attack spearheaded by Andy Roberts, Viswanath scored a classy 139 in the second innings, mixing solid defence with sublime strokeplay. The spinners then took over, giving India an 85-run win. It was the perfect new-year gift to all Indians.

Gundappa Viswanath – 97* v West Indies
Madras, January 11, 1975
One of the best sub-100 innings ever in Test cricket, this was the day when the diminutive Gundappa Viswanath took on the might of Andy Roberts, West Indies’ pace spearhead, and won. India went into the Madras Test trailing 1-2 in the five-match series, and Roberts soon reduced them to 117 for 8. Coming in at No. 4, Viswanath launched into a counterattack even as wickets fell at the other end. Cutting and flicking the West Indian attack with power which belied that belied his 5’4" frame, Viswanath added 73 more runs with Bishan Bedi and BS Chandrasekhar to finish unbeaten on 97. That Mankad’s 19 was the next highest score in India’s total of 190 indicates the stature of Viswanath’s knock. Wisden recognised the quality of this innings by ranking it 39th in its list of 100 best all-time innings – one of only two sub-century knocks to make the list.

Sunil Gavaskar – 221 v England
The Oval, September 3 and 4, 1979
One of Test cricket’s finest innings ever played in a fourth innings run-chase, Sunil Gavaskar’s 221 was a masterclass in batsmanship. Chasing a target of 438 against England at The Oval in 1979, Gavaskar showed the way, putting together 213 for the first wicket with Chetan Chauhan, and another 153 for the second wicket with Dilip Vengsarkar. Gavaskar played a chanceless knock, showing impeccable concentration and a near-perfect judgment of line and length. It was a shame that India had to ultimately settle for a draw.

Sandeep Patil – 174 v Australia
Adelaide, January 25 and 26, 1981
Sandeep Patil’s charisma and flamboyant personality suggested that he might have been perfectly suited to a career in the film world, yet his greatest moment came on the cricket field, against a marauding Australian pace attack. Patil had been felled by a bouncer in the previous Test, but armed with a helmet, played an innings of brutal power at the Adelaide Oval, flaying Dennis Lillee, Rodney Hogg and Len Pascoe. He finished with 174 from just 240 balls, inclusive of 22 fours and a six, helping India post a total of 419 in reply to Australia’s 528.

Sunil Gavaskar – 127* v Pakistan
Faisalabad, January 7 and 8, 1983
Sunil Gavaskar’s unbeaten 127 in the second innings of the Faisalabad Test against Pakistan in 1982-83 was a splendid exhibition of batting skills under pressure. India trailed by 280 runs in the first innings, but Gavaskar’s class shone through in adversity. A bowling attack which boasted Imran Khan at his fiery best and Sarfaraz Nawaz ran through the rest of the Indian batting, but failed to breach Gavaskar’s immaculate defensive technique. India lost the match by 10 wickets, but Gavaskar added another feather to his cap, becoming the first Indian to carry his bat in Test cricket.

Kapil Dev – 175* v Zimbabwe
Tunbridge Wells, June 18, 1983
A match which could have been India’s most embarrassing one-day defeat turned into one of their most memorable triumphs, thanks to the virtuoso performance of one man. Kapil Dev walked to bat with India reeling at 17 for 5 against minnows Zimbabwe in a World Cup league match. Defeat would have dumped India out of the tournament. From here, Kapil proceeded to play one of the greatest one-day innings ever. By the time the 60 overs had been completed, Kapil was unbeaten on 175, and India had moved to a respectable 266 for 8, enough to win them the match. The second-highest scorer – Syed Kirmani with 24 not out.

Sunil Gavaskar – 121 v West Indies
Delhi, October 29, 1983
Sunil Gavaskar’s 29th Test hundred was an emphatic answer to all those who had questioned his ability to face up to West Indies’ pace battery. Coming off a poor first Test at Kanpur, Gavaskar went on the attack, pulling, driving and cutting with a vengeance which left the bowlers dazed and the crowd in raptures. The West Indian attack included Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Wayne Daniel, but they came off a distant second-best, as Gavaskar raced to his century in just 94 balls, equaling Sir Don’s record in style.

Dilip Vengsarkar – 102* v England
Headingley, June 20 and 21, 1986
Dilip Vengsarkar hit the headlines for scoring three consecutive centuries at Lord’s, but his best batting performance in England was undoubtedly his undefeated 102 at Headingley. India led by 170 on the first innings, but wobbled in the second, losing their top five wickets for just 70. On a wicket of increasingly unpredictable bounce, Vengsarkar, who’d made 61 in the first innings, dominated the England attack and took India to 237. No other batsman topped 40 in the match – a glowing testimony of Vengsarkar’s batsmanship. It helped India wrap up the match and win the series 2-0.

Sunil Gavaskar – 96 v Pakistan
Bangalore, March 15 and 17, 1987
Sunil Gavaskar’s last Test innings of 96 was a perfect encapsulation of his genius. On a minefield of a pitch at Bangalore, India were set a fourth-innings target of 216. Most batsmen either hit out in frustration or used their pads as the first line of defence. Gavaskar was different. Marking out the rough spots and judging the line and length to perfection, Gavaskar played with a surety that, given the conditions, was extraordinary. Unfortunately, the rest of the batsmen failed to measure up – the second-highest contributor to the innings was the 27 extras – and India lost by 16 runs.

Sanjay Manjrekar – 108 v West Indies
Barbados, April 7 and 8, 1989
India’s tour of the West Indies in 1989-90 was a disaster – they lost the Test series 3-0 – but from the ruins emerged a rare jewel. Sanjay Manjrekar scored a classy 108 at Barbados in his first Test innings since being hit in the eye in the Delhi Test against the same opposition. He came in to bat at 68 for 4 against an attack which included Marshall, Ambrose, Bishop and Walsh but was completely unfazed, displaying technique and temperament reminiscent of his father Vijay Manjrekar. India lost the match, but Sanjay had announced his arrival in style.

Sachin Tendulkar – 114 v Australia
Perth, February 2 and 3, 1992
Batsmen from the subcontinent have traditionally struggled on fast, bouncy wickets, but Sachin Tendulkar showed how those conditions could be conquered. On a typically quick WACA wicket, Tendulkar – not yet 19 then – tamed an Australian attack which included McDermott, Hughes, Reifell and Whitney. Adjusting to the bounce with ease, Tendulkar repeatedly got on top of the ball to play the square-cut. No other Indian batsman managed even a half-century, putting Tendulkar’s innings of 114 in perspective. India lost, but Tendulkar’s two centuries on this tour – the other one at Sydney – embellished a legend that would assume mythical proportions as the decade wore on.

Sachin Tendulkar – 143 v Australia
Sharjah, April 22, 1998
Some of the best knocks in Sachin Tendulkar’s 13-year career have come against Australia. In 1998, Steve Waugh’s team felt the heat in the Coca Cola Cup in Sharjah. Set a daunting target of 285, Tendulkar launched into a savage onslaught, carving out five sixes and nine fours in scoring 143 off a mere 131 balls. A sandstorm held up play briefly, but it only served to whet Tendulkar’s appetite even more: the first ball after resumption was deposited for six. India lost the match, but Tendulkar’s blitz was enough to propel them into the finals, where another century by him won India the Cup.

VVS Laxman – 281 v Australia
Kolkata, March 13, 14 and 15, 2001
VVS Laxman’s 281 was much more than a mere matchwinner; it restored a nation’s faith in their cricket team and turned around a series in which India were being drubbed by world champions Australia. Trailing by 274 runs in the first innings of the second Test at Kolkata, Laxman walked in at 52 for 1 in India’s second essay against a marauding Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie. By the time Laxman had finished, India had batted through an entire day without losing a wicket, and had enough runs on the board and time on hand to force a win. Laxman was sublime in his strokeplay against the fast bowlers, and his twinkle-toed footwork had Shane Warne in a tizzy. The spectators at the Eden Gardens were delirious with joy; the best team in the world had been vanquished.

Source: wisden.com

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