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Record-setting Laxman and Dravid pulverise Australia all day - by Kuldip Lal

CALCUTTA, March 14 (AFP) - Venkatsai Laxman smashed India's highest individual score of 275 not out and Rahul Dravid made an unbeaten 155 to turn the tables on Australia in the second Test here on Wednesday.

The fifth-wicket pair batted all day to put on a record unbroken partnership of 357 as India, following on 274 runs behind, rattled up 589-4 by stumps on the fourth day.

With the Indians 315 runs ahead and six wickets still in hand, Australia's record streak of 16 consecutive Test wins appears in danger of ending on Thursday.

Rarely had Steve Waugh's world-beating side suffered such punishment on the field as Laxman and Dravid flayed the bowlers to all parts of the vast Eden Gardens after starting the day at 254-4.

Laxman, the wristy 26-year-old from Hyderabad, compiled the highest score on Indian soil, surpassing West Indian Rohan Kanhai's 256 against India in the Calcutta Test in 1958-59.

The 21-Test veteran also overtook the 18-year-old record of Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar, who made 236 against the West Indies in Madras in 1983.

Laxman, whose only previous Test century was the 167 he made against Australia in Sydney last year, has so far hit 44 boundaries during his 10-hour vigil at the crease.

Dravid roared back into form with his ninth hundred studded with 19 hits to the fence.

Their partnership was India's best for the fifth wicket in Test cricket, surpassing 214 by Mohammad Azharuddin and Ravi Shastri against England at the same venue in 1984.

Australia put nine bowlers in the firing line, but none of them made an impression on the slow, wearing wicket.

Leg-spinner Shane Warne conceded 152 runs in 34 overs, fast bowler Jason Gillespie went for 115 runs from 31 and even the usually spot-on Glenn McGrath finished with 1-81.

It was a remarkable comeback by the Indians after they managed just 176, 219 and 171 in three previous innings in the series.

"Too good to be true," said Laxman, who was embraced by captain Sourav Ganguly and other team-mates on the boundary line after the day's play.

"To surpass a man of Gavaskar's stature is a great honour. But I am happy my effort has given India hope.

"Once we saw off the first hour, I knew we could bat all day. It was just a matter of sticking it out there."

Dravid complimented his partner, saying he was inspired by the ease with which Laxman played at the other end.

"He made it look all so easy," he said. "I owe my century to Laxman, but I hope it has silenced some people who had predicted that I would not get runs against the Australians."

The pair never looked back after making 122 runs in the morning session and 115 in the two hours after lunch.

Laxman and Dravid came together at the crease on Tuesday evening with India struggling at 232-4, still 42 runs away from making Australia bat again.

They made light of the second new ball taken soon after the start of the fourth day's play to score 51 runs from the first 15 overs.

India went to lunch on 376-4 and soon after resumption, Dravid brought up the 200 of the partnership by driving Gillespie for a boundary.

Laxman then drove Mark Waugh through the covers for his 35th boundary to bring up his individual double-century.

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