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The famous five: India's Test wins in Australia


Australia_India_Test_CricketYet another edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is almost upon us, with the first Test of the much-awaited four-match series set to commence at the Adelaide Oval on December 6. The hosts are bereft of their batting lynchpins Steven Smith and David Warner, both of whom are serving one-year bans due to their involvement in the ball-tampering episode in South Africa earlier this year. Despite their absence, India are expected to have their task cut out down under.

Australia has been the hardest place to visit for most Test teams over the years, and it is no different in India’s case. Since their first tour back in 1947-48, India have played 44 Test matches in Australia, winning only five and losing 28. Moreover, they are yet to win a Test series there, after 11 attempts. As we look forward to what transpires over the next month, here is a look back at the five rare instances when India toppled the Australians in their own backyard.

Third Test, Melbourne, 1977-78

Despite being hit by the exodus of top players to Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, Australia, under the captaincy of the recalled 41-year-old Bob Simpson, had notched narrow victories at Brisbane (by 16 runs) and Perth (by two wickets) to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series. Facing a must-win situation at the MCG, India endured a horror start after Bishan Singh Bedi won the toss, losing openers Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan without a run on the board.

Mohinder Amarnath (72) and Gundappa Viswanath (59) revived the innings with a third-wicket stand of 105, steering the total to a competitive 256. Australia were also served by a century stand for the third wicket, as Gary Cosier (67) and Craig Serjeant (85) put on 104 to take the score to 122/2. But the batsmen to follow caved in to the magic of leg-spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (6/52), who became only the second Indian (after Bedi) to take 200 Test wickets.

Armed with a handy lead of 43, India rode on Gavaskar’s 118 – his third century of the series – to post 343 in the second dig. Viswanath (54) chipped in with a fifty again, and helped Gavaskar raise 98 for the third wicket. Set a daunting 387 to win on a pitch increasingly aiding spin, Australia were shot out for 164 early on the fifth day, giving India their first win on Australian soil. ‘Chandra’ added another 6/52, and his 12/104 remains the best return by an Indian abroad.  

Fourth Test, Sydney, 1977-78

A week after the Melbourne triumph, India levelled the series with an even bigger win. Chandrasekhar continued from where he left, taking 4/30 to help dismantle Australia for just 131 on the first day. Bedi was equally effective with his left-arm spin, complementing Chandrasekhar with a haul of 3/49. India seized control through an opening stand of 97 between Gavaskar and Chauhan, before a brief wobble on the second morning saw the loss of three wickets for 19 runs.

However, a fourth-wicket stand of 125 between Viswanath (79) and Dilip Vengsarkar, followed by Karsan Ghavri’s 64 from number eight, frustrated Australia, enabling Bedi to declare at 396/8 late on the third day. Cosier (68) and Peter Toohey (85) did their best in the second innings, but India’s spin trio, this time led by off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna (4/58), shared eight wickets to ensure India’s win by an innings and two runs. Australia took the decider at Adelaide by 47 runs.

Third Test, Melbourne, 1980-81

India drew a series in Australia for the first time after a remarkable turnaround in this eventful final Test. Encouraged by the extra grass on the surface, Greg Chappell elected to field after calling correctly. Pacers Dennis Lillee (4/59) and Len Pascoe had India in trouble at 115/6, before Viswanath, having come in at 22/2, struck a determined 114 to take the total to 237. Australia replied with 419, guided by Allan Border (124), Doug Walters (78) and Chappell (76).

Skipper Gavaskar (70) and Chauhan (85) brought India back into the contest with an opening stand of 165 that ended dramatically, as Gavaskar disagreed with the LBW decision against him by umpire Rex Whitehead to the extent that he began to call off the proceedings, also urging Chauhan to leave the field with him. Normalcy was resumed upon the intervention of the Indian manager Salim Durrani, after which India somewhat lost their way, finishing with a total of 324.

Australia’s target was 143, and they were helped by the fact that India’s bowling attack was weakened by injuries. But the medium pace of Ghavri and the left-arm spin of Dilip Doshi reduced Australia to 24/3 by the end of the fourth day. Pace ace Kapil Dev, who had a strained thigh muscle, also got among the wickets on the fifth morning, as he cut through the batting line-up with an incisive spell of 5/28. Australia subsided to 83 all out, their lowest total against India.     

Second Test, Adelaide, 2003-04

A rain-hit draw in the first Test at Brisbane meant that the teams arrived in Adelaide with a view to take a vital lead in the four-Test series. Ricky Ponting sent the Indians on a leather hunt, remaining unbeaten on 176 out of 400/5 at the end of the day. He shared in a fifth-wicket stand of 138 with Simon Katich (75), and went on to reach his double ton on the second day, before getting out for blazing 242. Australia finished with 556, leg-spinner Anil Kumble taking 5/154.

India were given a bright start by Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag, who put together 66 for the first wicket. But paceman Andy Bichel took three quick wickets, including the key scalp of Sachin Tendulkar. To add to India’s woes, captain Sourav Ganguly was run out soon after, leaving the score at a worrying 85/4. Rahul Dravid was joined by VVS Laxman at this stage – the pair had put on 376 for the fifth wicket in the epic Kolkata Test against Australia in 2000-01.

They proceeded to a do an encore, turning the tables on the Australians with an awe-inspiring fifth-wicket partnership worth 303. Laxman departed for 148, but Dravid marched on towards an excellent 233, then his career-best score. Dravid was the last man out at 523, before lunch on the fourth day. As Australia began their second innings with a narrow lead, they ran into a rampant Ajit Agarkar. The lanky seamer put India in the ascendancy with his best international display.

Agarkar picked up 6/41, while Tendulkar did his bit with his gentle spin, removing Damien Martyn and captain Steve Waugh in successive overs at a critical juncture. India required 230 for victory, and began the final day at 37/0. Once again, it was Dravid who anchored the innings, and his third-wicket stand of 70 with Tendulkar put India well on course. India achieved the target with four wickets to spare soon after tea, with Dravid (72*) aptly hitting the winning four.   

Third Test, Perth, 2007-08

This Test began under the dark clouds of controversy, after the previous Test at Sydney had seen India at the receiving end of many a contentious umpiring decision. Moreover, an ugly row between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh threatened to disrupt the tour. India, led by Kumble, faced an Australian side that had won a record-equalling 16 Tests in a row. They were also up against history – no team besides the West Indies had won in Perth in the last 22 years.

Senior pros Rahul Dravid (93) and Sachin Tendulkar (71) put on 139 for the third wicket after Kumble won the toss. India lost their last six wickets for 52 though, and were dismissed for 330. The visitors’ young pace trio of RP Singh (4/68), Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma then bowled dream spells, combining to reduce Australia to 61/5. Symonds (66) and Adam Gilchrist (55) stalled the damage with a 102-run stand for the sixth wicket, but Australia ceded a lead of 118.

Australia staged a comeback by having India at 160/6 in the second innings. However, crisis man VVS Laxman (79) batted assuredly with the tail to take India’s lead above 400. Australia’s target was 413 with more than two days to go. Pathan removed the openers within ten overs, and despite Michael Clarke’s 81, the hosts stumbled to 253/8. A ninth-wicket stand of 73 kept the chase alive, but India duly sealed a famous 72-run win against the odds late on the fourth day.    

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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