India-Australia Tests At Sydney: A Historical Journey


By Ritesh Misra

Ritesh Misra

The current series between India and Australia is India’s 12th tour Down Under with 8 series win for the Aussies and three series being drawn. India by winning the 3rd Test have taken a 2-1 lead and ensured that they will retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

There is one more Test remaining which is in Sydney. This historic venue has seen a Test on each and every Indian tour to Australia tour and so far there have been 5 Aussie wins, 5 draws and a solitary Indian win here. Let’s go down memory lane and recollect how the Tests panned out and what were the sterling performances from players of both sides.
The Solitary Indian win
India tasted success with an innings win in just their 3rd Test at Sydney. Magical leg-spinner Chandra with 4 and left-arm spinner Bedi with 3 wickets bundled the Aussies out for 131. A terrific team batting performance by the Indians saw 6 Indian batsmen namely Gavaskar, Chouhan, Vishwanath, Vengsarkar, Kirmani and Ghavri crossing 40 with Vishwanath 79 and Ghavri 64 scoring half centuries. Australia fared better in the 2nd knock, reaching 264, but Prasanna with 4 wickets combined well with Bedi, Chandra, and Ghavri ( 2 wickets each) to give India a famous win.
The Aussie wins
This was just the 2nd series and Australia comfortably defeated India by 144 runs at Sydney. Australia had a strong side with Ian Chappell coming in to bat at 7. The star for the Aussies was Bob Cowper who had a 32 and a 165 along with 5 wickets as well. For India, only Abid Ali did well with 78 and 81, with Captain Tiger Pataudi and Ajit Wadekar chipping in with 51 and 49 in the 1st innings. Incidentally, Bob Cowper has a dubious world record. His batting average at home is 75.78 and abroad is 33.33 and this difference of 42.45 is the maximum for batsmen with above 2000 runs in Test cricket.
The last time it was India who won by an innings and this time it was Australia who won by an innings. Greg Chappel scored a magnificent 200 for Australia. Kapil Dev had valiant bowling figures of 5/97 in 37 overs. India were shot out for 201 in both innings due to hostile bowling by Lillee, Hogg, and Pascoe. Sandeep Patil played an attractive known of 65 before being hit by Pascoe. Recently Patil in an interview to Mid-day said that he was lucky to be alive as he had ducked into the bouncer and was not wearing a helmet. According to Patil, the tragic loss of Phil Hughes was an identical injury and even wearing a helmet could not save the young batsman.  At Sydney, Patil came to bat in the second innings and credits Sunny Gavaskar for encouraging him. Patil says that though he was almost immediately out, Sunny was waiting for him at the boundary ropes and congratulated him by saying “Congrats, you have done it”. Patil’s heroic 174 in the very next test at Adelaide was heroic stuff and part of Indian sporting folklore.
Australia had a comfortable innings win. Current head coach Justin Langer’s 223 and Ricky Ponting’s 141 not out took Australia to a mammoth  552. India could score just 150 and 261 with terrific bowling by an amazing bowling attack comprising of Mcgrath, Lee, Fleming, and Warne. India had 2 reluctant openers who were current Selection Chairman MSK Prasad and VVS Laxman. In the second innings, Laxman scored a scintillating 167 in just 198 balls which was the 1st of many memorable knocks against the mighty Aussies, including his 281 at Eden, the best ever Test knock by an Indian batsman.
India lost this match though they scored 532 in the 1st innings in which Sachin top scored with 154. Brett Lee took 5 wickets. However Australia scored 463 and 401 but generally, it was felt that Ponting had declared too late as India had to survive just 72 overs and with 2 overs remaining had 3 wickets in hand. However, Clarke’s 3 wickets in 5 balls got Australia a famous win.
If Michael Clarke did it with the ball in 2007-08, he contributed massively with the bat with an imposing 329 not out. Ponting (134) and Mike Hussey (150) also shone. India was defeated by an innings scoring 191 in 1st knock and a more respectable 400 in the 2nd. Dhoni top scored for India in the first innings with 57 not out while Gambhir’s 83 was the highest of 4 Indian half-centuries in the 2nd, others being Sachin, Laxman, and Ashwin. Pattinson and Hilfenhaus were the picks of the Aussie bowlers.
The Drawn Tests
This was the 1st ever series between the opponents and the 1st time they met at Sydney. On a terrible wicket, only 10 hours of play was possible in 6 days of play. India scored 170 all out in 70 overs after being at one stage 95-6. Dattu Phadkar, a cricketing heartthrob of those days debuted and scored 51 at number 8. Interestingly it took 60 more years more before an Indian crossed 50 on debut with Mayank Agarwal doing so at Melbourne in the current series. Australia were 107 all out with Phadkar (3) and Hazare (4) sharing the spoils. Hazare bowled out Don Bradman for 13. In the 2nd innings, India were 61/7 before the match was called off. It was in this Test that Vinoo Mankad ran out Bill Brown for backing up too far, after warning him. He was criticised for this but Don Bradman defended the dismissal, unfair advantage was taken by the batsman. Till date, Sunny Gavaskar always questions why the mode of dismissal is called “Mankeded” when Mankad was not at fault and Brown was.
India piled up 600/4 declared and at one stage were 415/1. Gavaskar (172), Srikkanth (116) and Jimmy Amarnath (138) batted Australia out of the Test. Australia reached 396 mainly due to a 217 run opening partnership between David Boon (131) and Geoff Marsh (92). India’s huge total allowed the rare luxury of a follow-on and Australia survived 77 overs to draw at 119/6. Overall Australia batted as many as 257 overs with a run rate of less than 2 to earn a fighting draw.
David Boon once again got a ton to take Australia to 313 but in response, India piled up 483 with Ravi Shastri scoring a double hundred and Sachin scoring 148. This was Shane Warne’s 1st test match and a popular quiz question is which Indian debuted with him with the answer being current Bihar coach Subroto Bannerjee. Australia were 173/8 in their second innings with Shastri taking 4/45. India would consider themselves unlucky not to win this Test since almost the entire 3rd day’s play was lost.
India would consider themself distinctly unlucky not to win this Test which would have given them the series 2-1. Batting 1st India piled up 705-7 with Sachin and Laxman scoring 241 and 178. Australia responded with 474 with tons by Langer and Katich. India briskly scored 211-2 with unbeaten 91 and 60 by Dravid and Sachin 60. Australia went into tea with 4 wickets down and with Kumble and Murali Kartik, one fancied an Indian win. However Waugh came up with a match-saving 80 with Katich who got 77 not out. Steve Bucknor’s umpiring was a sore point with the Indians who felt that he did not give Langer out twice to Agarkar and Martyn once to Kartik. Even Billy Bowden negated an appeal of Kumble to Martyn which looked plumb. However, the last day belonged to Waugh who was his usual tough self in getting the draw.
This was the series when Steve Smith and Virat Kohli hit 4 tons each. Virat had captained in the 1st Test of the series. After the 3rd Test when Dhoni abruptly retired, the mantle of captaincy came now as a full-time job to Virat and he responded with a 147 which helped India score 475 in response to Australia’s 572/7 declared. Steve Smith scored 117 in the 1st innings and a run a ball 70 in Australia’s 251/6 declared. India had to survive 90 overs which they did for an honorable draw. In the 2011-12 Test India could not survive 2 overs with 3 wickets in hand. Here they were in a similar situation and with 7 wickets down needed to survive 12 overs which they did courtesy Ajinkya and Bhuvneswar Kumar.
This then is the history of India-Australia Tests at Sydney. What will happen on 3rd January. Will we see an Indian win or a draw which would mean that Virat Kohli will be the 1st ever Indian Captain to lead his side to a series win in Australia. Or will Australia fight back to equalise the series at 2-1.
Looking forward to a great Test at Sydney.


About author

The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films, and music.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Pragativadi and does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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