Wednesday, March 22, 2023

From Eden to The five biggest India versus Australia Tests in India

Nail-biters, brain fade, some of the greatest epics; India-Australia has seen it all:

There are perfect scripts and then there is Eden, 2001. The comeback of comebacks, an all-time high for Test cricket, this is the game that helped a new India emerge from the lows of match-fixing and the despondency of watching two captains—Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar—resign. Up against a marauding Australian side that had won 16 Tests in a row, the last being a 10-wicket rout in Mumbai, Sourav Ganguly made Steve Waugh wait at the toss at Eden before scripting the unthinkable.

A little context here. Only twice before in the history of cricket had a team won after following on—Sydney in 1894 and Leeds in 1981. India looked nowhere close to emulating that feat when Waugh enforced the follow-on. Over the next two days, close to 200,000 people watched VVS Laxman annihilate Australia’s hopes of winning a record 17 Tests in a row with a resplendent 281. Not a single wicket fell on the fourth day as Laxman and Dravid, who scored an equally inimitable 180, put on a record 376 runs for the fifth wicket. Australia were tortured to the brink of breakdown, so much so that Jason Gillespie tried to distract the batters by running in spread-eagled. The dice had already been cast by then though. Harbhajan Singh punched holes in Australia’s innings with a six-wicket haul, giving India a surreal win and sending Eden into an unforgettable tizzy.

Chennai, 1986

In the sweltering cauldron of Chepauk, David Boon’s 122 and Allan Border’s 106 bookended an epic from Dean Jones—playing only his third Test after being recalled after nearly three years—as he braved dehydration, nausea and cramps to score 210, helping Australia declare for 574. Kapil Dev’s fighting 119 held together India’s response of 397 but the visitors, armed with a 177-run lead, set India a target of 348.

Tempers were running high on both sides. Jones had been asked to change his shoes because he was suspected of deliberately running on the pitch, Border was involved with several altercations with the umpire and Chandrakant Pandit had to be literally pulled away from the Australians during the last drinks break. India were looking down and out at 253/5 but then Ravi Shastri sparked a revival, scoring a 40-ball 48 even as wickets kept falling. With India on 331/6, needing 17 more to win, Chetan Sharma was caught on the boundary. Kiran More was leg-before and Shivlal Yadav bowled, bringing Maninder Singh to the crease with India needing four from the final over. Shastri scored three of them but Singh was trapped leg-before with one ball remaining, leading to the game’s second-ever tied Test.

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