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Laxman and Ganguly delay Australia's victory in second Test - by Kuldip Lal

CALCUTTA, March 13 (AFP) - Venkatsai Laxman hit a sparkling unbeaten 109 to hold off Australia's inevitable victory in the second cricket Test against India here on Tuesday.

The wristy 26-year-old shared a fourth-wicket stand of 117 with skipper Sourav Ganguly (48) to lift India to 254-4 in their second innings by stumps on the third day.

But the Indians still have a long way to go to stave off defeat in the Test after being forced to follow on 274 runs in arrears earlier in the day.

The hosts trail by 20 runs with six wickets in hand and need a miraculous turnaround over the next two days to prevent Australia from taking a decisive 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

Steve Waugh's men, looking to secure Australia's first series on Indian soil in 31 years, won the first Test at Bombay by 10 wickets with two days to spare.

Laxman and Ganguly, however, ensured the Indians did not go down without a fight after making just 171 in the first innings.

Laxman, promoted to number three following his defiant 59 in the first innings, has so far hit 19 boundaries in his second Test century, both against Australia.

He made 167 in the second innings of the Sydney Test last year which Australia won by an innings an 141 runs.

Ganguly, leading India for the first time on his home ground, fell just before close when he edged a rising ball from Glenn McGrath to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist.

The out-of-form Rahul Dravid, forced to abandon his customary number three position, was unbeaten at close on seven.

"It was an honour to come in one down and I am glad I lived up to the expectations of the captain and coach," Laxman said later. "We needed someone to be aggressive and I was assigned that role.

"It's worked well for me but I want to continue like this on Wednesday so that we can put them under pressure," he said.

Laxman and Ganguly came together after India lost three wickets, including the crucial one of Sachin Tendulkar, with just 115 runs on the board.

Tendulkar managed just 10 runs in each innings, this time edging a drive off fast bowler Jason Gillespie into Gilchrist's gloves.

An angry spectator among the 45,000 at the Eden Gardens hurled a water pouch at Tendulkar as he walked back to the pavilion, missing the cricketer narrowly.

Police, however, moved in quickly to restore order and evicted the man from the stadium.

Earlier, India added 43 runs to their overnight score of 128-8 when they were dismissed an hour after the start.

Laxman hit 33 of those runs before he was last man out after making his sixth half-century in 21 Tests.

The stylish Hyderabad batsman hit half of his 12 boundaries past the spread-out field, showing his senior colleagues in the dressing room how to play the bowlers.

Venkatesh Prasad helped Laxman add 42 for the last wicket before Laxman was caught in the slips off Shane Warne.

When India batted a second time, openers Shiv Das and Sadagopan Ramesh put on 52 when the Australians broke through.

Left-hander Ramesh did not add to his lunch score of 30 when he edged Warne to the slip region where Mark Waugh dived to his right to pick up a low catch.

Das and Laxman then added 45 for the second wicket, before the tourists earned a lucky break.

Das, who looked composed making 39, played back to Gillespie and disturbed the bails with his right foot to be given out hit wicket.

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