Coming into the ongoing series, India were in a marauding form and Australia had endured a humiliating series whitewash at the hands of Sri Lanka during their last visit to the subcontinent. So, little did anyone think that the fourth Test would decide the fate of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
But after three fiercely competitive Tests in the ongoing series so far, we are in for the fourth and final Test at the ever-so-picturesque HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala. Because of the altitude and the atmospheric conditions, the Dharamsala pitch has always been more friendly for the quicker bowlers than the spinners. While Australia have lost their pace spearhead Mitchell Starc due to a fractured foot, Indian pacers have been in a good form, of late.
So, can Australia break their 13-year jinx and register a memorable series victory in India? That will be answered sometime in the next week. But, as of now, we are taking you through five memorable series-deciding Test matches between both the teams.
What could be more romantic than this match! After a come-from-behind victory in the second Test in Kolkata, the series was leveled at 1-1 and Steve Waugh’s unbeaten streak had already been stopped. Chennai, which had seen many India-Australia classics before, was all set for a gripping decider.
In the first innings, Harbhajan Singh shone with the ball once again, but it was not enough to stop a certain Mathew Hayden from painting the Chepauk arena with one of the finest double-hundreds by an overseas batsman. Australia bundled out for 391 and thanks to Sachin Tendulkar’s superb 126 runs, India managed a sneak in with a lead of 110.
Australia started their second innings, with Mark Waugh scoring 57 and engaging in two partnerships with Justin Langer and his twin brother Steve Waugh. Harbhajan showed his magic yet again by picking last six Australian wickets for only 15 runs in 17.1 overs to finish with a career-best 8/84. Along the way, Australia ended their innings on 264, setting India a target of 155 runs. While the target was not that big, Australia didn’t lose hope and reduced the hosts to 135/7. But Zaheer Khan and Sameer Dighe kept their nerves to take India to 151 before Zaheer fell to McGrath. But Dighe and Harbhajan made sure that India didn’t lose any more wickets thereon and sealed a thrilling two-wicket victory.
It was Steve Waugh’s last Test match. A charismatic player, a captain extraordinaire and what not! It was the fifth Test match of the series, deadlocking at 1-1. After Ganguly won the toss and opted to bat first under a blazing hot sky in Sydney, India posted a record total of 705/7 riding on an out-of-form Tendulkar's monumental unbeaten 241 - his 32nd Test century. In that Test, Tendulkar also featured in an Indian record fourth-wicket alliance of 353 with VVS Laxman, who scored 178 runs.
While Australia replied back strongly, Anil Kumble's 8/141 was sufficient to hand India a 231-run lead after which Dravid (91*) and Tendulkar (60*) extended the lead to 442, giving the Aussies a target of 443.
Again, Ganguly was criticized by pundits for not enforcing the follow-on, though again he was right- avoiding any risk of defeat before thinking of victory. On the day 5, Australia were at 196/4, with Waugh and Simon Katich already steadied the ship. Waugh's final innings in cricket ended on 80 and he had received an emotional standing ovation from the Sydney crowd. Although Kumble had 12 wickets in the match, India had failed to achieve the first-ever series victory in Australia and the series ended with a 1-1 draw. But, on the sands of time, this series left a lasting mark.
If Sydney 2004 is famous for the farewell of one of the cricket’s greatest captains Steve Waugh, Nagpur 2008 finds its place alongside. It was the match in which Sourav Ganguly- of lion-hearted courage and conviction, bid goodbye to the international cricket for one final time.
India entered the Test with a 1-0 advantage. Anil Kumble had already bid farewell in the preceding Test in Delhi and the 'MS Dhoni-era' had officially begun. Amidst all that, Sachin Tendulkar played a fantastic knock and his 109 runs led India to 441 even as the debutant off-spinner Jason Krejza ran riot by picking 8/215 from 43.5 overs. Riding on a collective team effort, India shut Australia out for 355, taking an 86-run first innings lead.
When India came out to bat again, it was Krejza who fired on all cylinders yet again, and the Indian middle order succumbed to the pressure completely. But due to the lower-order partnership between Harbhajan Singh and MS Dhoni, India scored 295 runs and set Australia a target of 381 runs. Harbhajan rattled Australia once again, and with just one wicket to win, Dhoni unofficially handed over the captaincy to Ganguly as a humble gesture of gratitude to one of India’s most successful captains.
The game has been etched in our memories forever- for Dhoni's gesture, for his farewell to the skipper who taught India how to win overseas, and for being a fiercely competitive Test.
After losing the first Test in Sydney and drawing the second one in Adelaide, India were in a desperate search of a victory to draw the series. While Australia didn’t give any chances to India in the first essay, it was the astonishing Aussie collapse that made the Test unbelievable on all counts.
After being put into bat in the first innings, India could manage to score 237 runs, while Australia replied back with a huge 419. With the series at stake, the Sunil Gavaskar-led team raised the bar even higher and managed to score 337 runs in the second dig, and gave the Aussies a target of 144 runs. While that was never going to be a safe target, the inimitable Kapil Dev took charge by picking five wickets, and thus bowling the Aussies out for a paltry 83.
India won the Test and saved themselves from a crushing series defeat.
It was one memorable series indeed where no team gave an inch to the other. Under the leadership of Bob Simpson, Australia performed pretty well and had gone up 2-0 with narrow wins in Brisbane (by 16 runs) and Perth (by two wickets) before Bishan Singh Bedi's Indian team hit back with big victories in Melbourne (by 222 runs) and Sydney (by an innings and two runs).
Adelaide was all set for an engrossing series decider. Simpson won the toss and opted to bat and also helped his team with a fine century that took the team to a giant 505 in 112.4 overs. In reply, India got off to a poor start and slipped to 23/3, before Gundappa Vishwanath (89), Dilip Vengsarkar (44), and Syed Kirmani (48) took the team to 269.
In the second innings, Australia posted 256 runs and gave a target of 493 runs to win the Test. And the Indians didn’t disappoint. Mohinder Amarnath scored 86, Vishwanath made 73 while Vengsarkar chipped in with 78 runs to take the team to 445 runs, which was a record total in a losing cause. These scorelines prove why the 1978-79 series was one of the fantastic contest between bat and ball.
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