South Africa scored a mere 131 runs in their 1st innings as the Indian bowling attack punched way above their perceived capabilities under the stewardship of Zaheer Khan.
As the match closed out, doubts crept into my mind as to which was the more important contribution of the two -
A) Laxman leading the batting out of a collapse twice in a decisive match, or
B) Zaheer doing a Moses on the Indian bowling to transform a bowling unit conceding 620 runs for 3 wickets in 1st Test, to a pack taking 10 wickets for 131 in the space of just the one Test
From yielding 620/3 to getting the same opponents 131 all out in the span of a match must be an achievement for Indian bowlers that may remain unparalleled. Zaheer's role in that improvement is undeniable.
However, that bowling turnaround was still a Team Achievement that was LED by Zaheer Khan. Part of it was inspiration from his return to the playing 11, and the team performance was not wholely dependent on his individual on-field performance. The win was achieved through sterling bowling performances of self (i.e. Zaheer) as well as others, at least one of whom was statistically as good as Zaheer in match performance. Zaheer was also overtaken by Steyn as the highest wicket taker for the match in either side.
This is where Laxman is streets ahead of all competition. Like Zaheer, Laxman too inspired good innings from those who came in after him. But Laxman also literally came forward and "went through the roof' & produced a special ('very very' is cliched these days) personal match performance @ Durban.
- Laxman got the highest individual score of 96, which is more than double the next highest individual score in either side - 39 (Prince in 2nd innings).
- The lower of Laxman's innings scores, 38, was also the 3rd highest score.
- Laxman's match aggregate (134) exceeded South Africa's 1st innings total, a feat than is comparable to the "620/3 to 131/10" bowling turnaround of his team's bowlers.