It has been 30 years since India and Australia played out THAT famous Test match in Madras (now Chennai) which ended in a tie after an epic conclusion. The newspapers next morning in Australia read — “Australians tie Test on the second-last ball”, “Hero Matthews ties ‘lost’ Test”. In an interaction with Sportstar on the eve of the anniversary, Allan Border, who captained that Australian side, shares memories from the historic match, the fifth day, the second-last ball and the celebrations.
“The rivalry between Australia and India has been phenomenal. It traces back to the tied Test match in 1986. We hadn’t played a lot of cricket against each other in the previous years. I was here in 1979, and the next time we came back was 1986. I think that started the intense rivalry that we see today, and the players who have played for both the countries have been phenomenal. It is the 30th anniversary as we speak,” Border remembered fondly.
On Australia’s performance
The tied Test was one of the great matches. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t televised because it was one of the games which went down to the second last ball of the match after five days.The conditions were quite impressive, it can be really hot and humid in these parts. There were incredible performances from a lot of players from both the teams. Dean Jones’s performance was outstanding, a career-defining innings from him in those conditions. Greg Matthews sometimes gets left out of the discussion, but when you think about it he took 10 wickets in the match and on the last day he basically bowled unchanged from one end in those conditions. It was quite phenomenal.
On Indian stars
On the other side, India had Kapil Dev. There were some good performances but when he came out to bat, India was way behind the first innings score. He just blazed away with a fantastic counter-attacking hundred. Not one of those that you knock it around and build the score slowly. He attacked as much as he could. That sort of set the match up nicely.
On the decision to declare
We had to go and chase quick runs late on day four. So the decision overnight was whether to declare or bat on. It was an interesting situation. If you look at the history of the game till that point, 348 to win in 90 overs — four runs an over — that was going to be a tough task and hadn’t been done too often, maybe a couple of times in history. So we were fairly confident that India couldn’t get the runs, it was just that we had to take 10 wickets in that period of time — that is how we came to that decision. It was quite incredible how the day panned out.
The fifth day
Making 347, nearly four runs an over, on a fifth day pitch in those conditions was phenomenal. Gavaskar started off. He made a rollicking 90, he just hit the ball to all parts. I remember there was a partnership between him and Jimmy Amarnath that really set the tone for the game, because there were plenty of times throughout the afternoon when India could have shut up shop a little bit and sort of just knocked the ball around and played out for a draw. But credit goes to them, they kept going for the runs and it was probably Ravi Shastri in the end who really set the scene. There was a period, I reckon, where India was six or seven down with only about 16-17 runs needed. At that point I was thinking ‘the game is gone, there is no justice. We have declared twice and we are going to end up losing the game’. And somehow the cricketing gods smiled upon us and we hung in there and Greg Matthews and Ray Bright did a great job for us and it is just history now.
The penultimate ball
Maninder Singh was the last man out. I was close in and I was thinking more about making sure that I get a hand on the ball so that they couldn’t run a single. I must admit I wasn’t thinking about the result. When I saw my team-mates jumping up and down, my initial reaction was ‘did we win’ because it was strange. We were more relieved about the result than disappointed because we thought we were going to lose the game. It was a phenomenal chase from India. The umpire’s finger went up very quickly. It was Vikramraju. It was a historical finger in the end (laughs). It was a great game. Neither side deserved to lose.
We have had some incredible matches. There was the VVS (Laxman) and (Rahul) Dravid match. Those are the things you don’t see very often. But it has made the Australian side a little bit shy about forcing follow-ons. I don’t remember Australia enforcing follow-on much after that.
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