India's five great Test wins in Australia

Playing in Australia is a challenge and winning is obviously a greater task. Here we pick five of India’s best Test wins on Australian soil.

B. S. Chandrasekhar, the hero of India's win over Australia by 222 runs during the third Test in Melbourne on January 4, 1978.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

Melbourne, December 30, 1977-January 4, 1978

This was an important series for world cricket. Kerry Packer, a businessman, had signed the best for the World Series Cricket tournament and Australia was forced to recall Bob Simpson from retirement. He was 41 and had last played a Test in 1968. The squad assembled by Australia saw many who made their debut in that series. India had just three players from the squad that toured in 1967 — Bishan Singh Bedi, B. S. Chandrasekhar and E. A. S. Prasanna. India began the tour with defeats in Brisbane and Perth and had to avoid another loss to keep the series alive. The match tested the resilience of the Indians and leading the revival were Sunil Gavaskar and G. R. Viswanath along with the wily Chandrasekhar. India was searching for its first win on Australian soil and could not have suffered a worst start — Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan falling with nothing on the scoreboard. The middle-order of Mohinder Amarnath, Viswanath, Dilip Vengsarkar and Ashok Mankad put up a fight and India posted a total of 256 after being asked to bat against the fiery Jeff Thomson and Wayne Clark. The Aussies ran into an inspired Chandrasekhar, who sliced through the batting line up with a sensational spell of six for 52 after initial dents caused by left-arm medium-fast Karsan Ghavri. The 43-run first innings lead boosted the Indian confidence and Gavaskar, who had opened the bowling too, came up with a sterling 118 while Viswanath stood firm with a 54. Faced with a target of 387 runs, Australia collapsed against Chandrasekhar’s sustained attack which fetched him six wickets for the second time in the match. Bedi’s contribution of six wickets gave no respite to the Australians, who lost by 222 runs, the margin amply conveying India’s dominance.

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Melbourne, February 7-11, 1981

Kapil Dev, who took five wickets for 28 runs, including that of the last man out, Jim Higgs, rushes towards an ecstatic Dilip Vengsarkar.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

India never lost a Test when Viswanath scored a century. It nearly lost this one. India had to win to ensure a 1-1 draw. Australia had a strong line up of Greg Chappell, Doug Walters, Allan Border, Rod Marsh, Kim Hughes, Dennis Lillee and Len Pascoe. It was a strange itinerary — a triangular ODI tournament with a Test squeezed in at Sydney. India lost that Test and returned to the ODI competition again before resuming the Test series in Adelaide with a draw. The final Test in Melbourne produced a contest full of incidents. Viswanath set the tempo with a classy century that left the Australian audience in a trance. A total of 237 was hardly going to put pressure on the home team which replied strongly through Chappell’s 76 and a robust 124 by Border. In the second innings, Gavaskar, losing his temper on being given leg-before at 70 to Lillee, nearly forfeited the match when he asked Chetan Chauhan to walkout with him. The manager, Wing Cdr S. A. K. Durrani, intervened and India continued its innings, posing Australia a target of 143 runs. Chauhan contributed with a gutsy 85 and also by wisely staying within the boundary when Gavaskar kept pushing him to leave the field. The task of knocking the runs became a nightmare for Australia as the pitch posed a huge challenge with the unpredictable bounce. Ghavri led the charge when he packed off John Dyson and Chappell off consecutive balls. Left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi struck two vital blows — Wood and Hughes — before Kapil Dev ran through the opposition with a five-wicket strike. Kapil, with medical support from commentator Dr. Narottam Puri, battled a hamstring strain to pull off a sensational win for India as Australia was bowled out for 83. It remains one of India’s finest triumphs overseas.

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Adelaide, December 12-16, 2003

Ajit Agarkar congratulates Rahul Dravid after India won on the final day of the second Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval on December 16, 2003.   -  V.V. Krishnan

 

This was Rahul Dravid’s match. His knocks of 233 and 72 not out knocked out Australia flat. And then the spell by Ajit Agarkar, who created a winning platform when the teams were reconciled to play out a draw. Of course, V. V. S. Laxman continued to torment the Australians with brilliant innings of 148 and 32 to make sure there were no alarms as India took a 1-0 lead with this win in the four-match series. This Test had some incredible action. The Australians raced to 400 for five on the opening day. Both the teams scored 500-plus runs in their first innings. Australia took the first innings lead, dominated the game for four days and yet ended a loser. That there was a result in the high scoring match spoke for the positive approach by the teams. Ricky Ponting’s 242 was matched by Dravid, who put India on the course with that innings and a fifth wicket partnership of 303 runs with Laxman as India batted the whole third day. The first innings lead for Australia was 33 runs but Agarkar rattled the home team with a dream spell on the fourth day. Dravid and Laxman won the hearts of the Indian fans by responding to the Aussie challenge with a partnership that stood out for its entertainment right through. The innings by Dravid was a lesson in discipline even as Laxman played the role of consolidating India’s chances to win with a strokefilled performance. Agarkar followed up his two for 119 in the first innings with an incisive spell of six for 41. India again had to fall back on Dravid’s enviable form and his partnership with Laxman to clinch the contest. In fitness of things, Dravid hit the winning runs with Agarkar appreciating the moment from the non-striker’s end.

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Perth, January 16-19, 2008

Captain Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar and Ishant Sharma celebrate India's victory over Australia in the third Test in Perth on January 19, 2008.

 

Coming after the ‘Monkeygate’ episode in Sydney, the win in Perth was understandably “special” for skipper Anil Kumble. He had declared that only “one team was playing cricket” in the Sydney Test and it was a sweet revenge for the Indians to best the Australians on a pitch they had come to dominate for years. “This is right at the top, not just overseas wins but if you look at whatever victories there have been — this will probably rate as one of the best,” said Kumble after the 72-run victory. “On what is probably regarded as the home turf for Australia we have been able to beat them — so it is very special.”

For me, the captaincy of Kumble was the memorable part of this match. With Chetan Chauhan and M. V. Sridhar, he formed the leadership group as India strove to overcome the negative publicity from the Sydney episode. From almost pulling out of the tour to registering this remarkable victory was a tribute to the team and of course Kumble’s inspiring work at the helm.

India was clearly very determined and dominated the Test from the first day to finish it with a day to spare. Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Laxman did the bulk of scoring and the spoils were shared by Irfan Pathan, R. P. Singh, Kumble and Virender Sehwag. The spell of the match came from Ishant Sharma who made Ponting look an average batsman as he got him in both the innings but the turning point was Kumble getting Sehwag to bowl on the fourth day. Sehwag got Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee to stop Australlia from scaling the target of 413 runs. Kumble summed it up well, “The most important thing after what had happened in Sydney was to play good cricket. We wanted to show that the Indian cricket team is a good Test unit.”

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Adelaide, December 6-10, 2018

Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates on reaching his century during the first Test in Adelaide on December 6, 2018.   -  AP

 

The start to India making history with a Test series win came at this wonderful venue. It was the first Test and Cheteshwar Pujara gave the hope with a masterly century. It was not flawless but it was the innings of the tour. His batting boosted the team’s confidence and the benchmark set by Virat Kohli and his boys, with the backing of coach Ravi Shastri, helped India achieve its first ever series triumph — the victory in Melbourne after the defeat in Perth confirming the progress made by Kohli’s boys. The disciplined knock by Pujara did justice to his stature and also silenced his critics who thought he was a flat-pitch bully. The 11 catches by wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant equalled the World record held by England’s Jack Russell and South African A. B. de Villiers. It was a splendid team effort and Kohli acknowledged it nicely, “Four years back it was 48 runs on the other side (in Adelaide). This one is way better, 31 on our side. We have never taken the lead in a series (before) in Australia. It is a huge boost. It has given us the right momentum. To take the lead first up, is a good achievement and something we are looking to build on.” The team did build on the win one Test later. Kohli also gave due credit to Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. “Technically and temperament-wise, they are solid Test players. Pujara was outstanding, he was the difference between the two teams. Ajinkya batted superbly as well, so fearless and positive and that’s his game and that’s his template. He certainly can take the game away from the opposition.” India put up an improved second innings show and wrapped it up with some splendid bowling by Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and R. Ashwin, who was, according to Kohli, “very economical and bowled in the right areas, just to create enough chances and keep one end tight. He did his job perfectly.”