Laxman, Sachin help India level series with Lanka

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> India defeated Sri Lanka by five wickets in the third and final Test on Saturday to draw the series 1-1.

Updated: August 07, 2010 08:26 IST
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Veteran VVS Laxman cracked a fighting unbeaten 103 as India relied on their experienced batsmen to pull off a five-wicket win in the third and final Test against Sri Lanka to level the series 1-1 here on Saturday.

Laxman defied cramps and anchored the innings brilliantly to notch up his 16th Test hundred, while Sachin Tendulkar (54) and Suresh Raina (41 not out) were the other notable contributors as the visitors overhauled a target of 257 about 10 minutes before the tea break.

Raina clobbered Chanaka Welegedara for a six to hand Sri Lanka there first at P Sara Oval Stadium since August 1994, triggering scenes of celebration in the Indian dressing room.

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Chasing 257 on a rather difficult fifth day track, the Indians recovered from early blows suffered yesterday with a 109-run partnership between Laxman and Tendulkar that laid the foundation of the win.

But on the flip side, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men could not break the 17-year-old jinx of not winning a series in the island nation.

Resuming the chase from Friday's 53 for three, India lost night-watchman Ishant Sharma (4) early on the Saturday morning.

Ishant was caught at short mid-wicket by Kumar Sangakkara off Suraj Randiv in the morning. Randiv ripped in a flighted loopy delivery around off and middle stump, leaving Ishant bemused who looked shaky right from the start.

Tendulkar and Laxman then took it upon themselves to steady the ship and steer a successful chase.

Tendulkar was the more cautious of the two veteran right-handers taking 106 deliveries to reach his 55th Test half century.

He didn't celebrate much on reaching the milestone but the Indian dressing room was up in applause for another of the iconic batsman's match-winning contributions.

Tendulkar had his share of luck in the early in the innings when he was dropped by Tillakaratne Dilshan at short leg while trying to push a Randiv turner.

The ball had gone off the bat and pad to the right of short-leg and Tendulkar, who was on just 18, heaved a huge sigh of relief when Dilshan spilled the opportunity.

The Indian right-hander attacked Randiv thereafter by charging down the track and driving a shot past the bowler for a boundary.

Laxman, on his part, leaned forward to an Ajantha Mendis delivery from the middle stump and turned it on to the boundary, marking the 50-run partnership between the two which came in 92 balls.

145 for four at lunch, India still had some distance to cover before getting to the target and there was a bit of drama to come immediately after the break.

Tendulkar was dismissed when Randiv flighted one outside the leg stump and the Indian, attempting a sweep shot, ended up gloving one to wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene.

Tendulkar's contribution to the win ended at 54 which came off 122 balls and included three fours.

But the ever-dependable Laxman ensured that his illustrious partner's dismissal did not trigger the kind of dreadful collapses that have cost India in the past.

The stylish Hyderabadi scored freely and his fifty, which came while Tendulkar was there at the other end, came off just 81 balls in the post-lunch session.

Joined by the in-form Raina, who scored a century on debut in the drawn second Test, Laxman ensured that the boundaries kept coming for India at regular intervals and he alone collected 12 of them.

The 35-year-old's body, however, started troubling him after he reached 60. Laxman was down on ground in pain before the 52nd over due to a lower back problem, which required the physio's assistance.

But the gritty batsman continued nonetheless with Virender Sehwag as his runner.

He reached his century off 146 deliveries by striking consecutive fours off Mendis in the 68th over.

Raina, on the other hand, rode his luck getting away with some edges that flew over fielders to play his role in the final outcome with a 45-ball 41, which included four boundaries and a six.

The 23-year-old left-hander has created a selection headache in the team by outperforming the injury-prone and desperately out of form Yuvraj Singh.

Laxman remained unbeaten at the other end, facing 149 deliveries in all.

Sri Lankan bowlers paid the price for not being attacking enough and though Randiv managed to pick up five wickets conceding just 82 runs in his 29 overs, others, including the much-feared pacer Lasith Malinga and Mendis, failed to provide the breakthroughs.

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