Always loved these two teams go head to head. Pretty epic contests, every single time. Here are a few moments from the last 12 or so years that were more than a little watchworthy.
1. 3rd Test, Sydney 2000 (Australia won by an innings and 141 runs)
When the great Aussie side were in operation, a touring side being over 300 runs behind when they walked out for their second innings was pretty routine. What was not was for a batsman to then tonk them for boundary after boundary in a desperate rearguard effort to help salvage a draw. India were reduced to 33-3 with both Dravid and Tendulkar back in the hut; an innings loss was a mere formality. Enter VVS Laxman. From memory, he was hit on the grill near the neck area pretty early on ducking into a Lee bouncer. It was then that he decided to say, ‘F**k this sh*t!!’ and pounded Australia to all parts of the SCG for the entirety of Day 3. 167 was the total he ended up with, amassing as many as 27 boundaries to get there. The next highest score was 25 by Ganguly. Yes.
India still lost by an innings and 141, but it was classy entertainment all round. More importantly, it was the beginning of Laxman’s pet project to destroy the Aussies every time he encountered their attack. Two more centuries have come from his blade at the SCG, in his two other matches hence. And he’s going to be seen early 2012 in the vicinity as well. Watch out.
2. 2nd Test, Kolkata 2001 (India won by 171 runs)
This match and series was Houdini in action. There was no way Australia should have lost after enforcing a follow-on. Christ, who does? But they underestimated the true nature of the pitch I bet; it had become more of a road than it was on Day 1, when they marched on to 445, led by a Steve Waugh century. In reply, India were bowled out for a paltry 171, came back on and well, you know the script. I don’t even need to tell you which pair of batsmen did the run scoring. Thus ended the commendable Aussie 16 match winning streak up until that point. India was labelled as the Final Frontier by the Waugh brigade. A Champion team they were, but they were unable to pocket a series win in India for whatever reason.
3. World Cup Final, Johannesburg 2003 (Australia won by 125 runs)
I watched this game when there was a war going on outside of my house (*cough*, true story), yet this Punter innings was a lot more brutal I’d have to say. India getting Gilchrist out at 1-105 proved not to be a relief, as Ricky coming in at #3 twanged 8 sixes on his was to a mammoth 140*. South African Airways had organized an air display between innings but it paled in comparison to what Ponting had managed over his two hours at the crease. For all intents and purposes, he ended the contest in the first fifty. Perhaps a supreme optimist might have thought that if Tendulkar could get going, the Indians might stand a chance. As it turned out McGrath disposed of him in the first over and that was that.
4. 2nd Test, Adelaide 2003 (India won by 4 wickets)
Back in the day, to get to Australia and back without a near-whitewash was mission impossible. India managed 1-1 out of four tests. Granted, Warne and McGrath were out injured but the Indian team could only play against whoever was against them on the field. Not that the attack was mediocre, Stuart MacGill was a handy spinner right through his 200+ wicket career and Bichel was no bunny either.
Adelaide was the venue of the victory; Rahul Dravid batted for over 835 minutes to ensure that India were in the game despite a knock of 242 from Ponting. 233 he ended up with, and whilst chasing 230 in the final innings, it could have gotten a little pear shaped with Tendulkar’s departure, but Dravid with a firm 72* saw it through to the end to ensure a win on Australian soil for the first time in a generation. Oh, and that other guy – Laxman? Yeah, think so. Made a 148 as well. Same old story, same old.
5. 3rd Test, Nagpur 2004 (Australia won by 342 runs)
This time around the Aussies did not mess up. They entered Nagpur already one up in the series and were comprehensively helped by Ganguly and Harbhajan wimping out after seeing the unusual green pitch on offer. Damien Martyn led the charge in both innings with the bat, compiling a century and a 97, while Gillespie polished off the fabled Indian top order for sub-200 scores on both occasions. Dravid 2, Tendulkar 2, Laxman 2. Chasing 543. Game over. The Aussies had finally conquered the final frontier.
6. 2nd Test, Sydney 2008 (Australia won by 122 runs)
Who cares about the result of this one? Nobody came out of this fixture clean. Harbhajan Singh – you know you called the bloke a monkey, just fess up and shut up. Cricket Australia – pretty toothless to roll over in front of the BCCI to save your financial backsides. Symmo – you did nothing wrong. You were a victim of racial abuse, complained to CA and they hung you out to dry. Pity. All this while you were just trying to settle into the Aussie test scheme of things. Tendulkar – Won’t make your legacy, but protecting that mediocre spinner in your side wasn’t in any way noble. BCCI – congratulations on scripting yet another drama on an Aussie/English tour. Steve Bucknor – need a fresh pair of eyes, mate?
For what it’s worth, Australia won by a hundred and twenty two.
7. 3rd Test, Delhi 2008 (Match Drawn)
Probably the least spectacular on my list, but check out the incidents from this game on YouTube if you can. Laxman did his customary Aussie bashing with a double century, but it’s the Gambhir 200 I’m talking about. Fraught with ruffles with the fielders, including one with Katich blocking him from taking a run at one point. There was also an incident where he elbowed Watson and was subsequently handed a one test match ban. This match was also Anil Kumble’s last test, and this series Saurav Ganguly’s as well.
8. 1st Test, Mohali 2010 (India won by 1 wicket)
Test matches in the sub-continent usually have the climaxes only in the third and fourth innings, and this one took that notion to the absolute extreme. 216 was what India were chasing on the final day, and Gambhir was adjudged incorrectly LBW for a duck right at the start. (Why don’t the BCCI like UDRS anyway?) Sehwag’s 17 and Dravid’s 13 were not handy enough and when Tendulkar departed at 119/6, it looked to be a tall ask. Laxman was still out there of course, but he had a bad back. No problemo, even after 124/8 as he and Ishant Sharma stitched together an 80 run partnership to get closer to the target. Before Sharma was incorrectly LBW in yet another muddle of a decision. Pressure mounted when last man Ojha walked in, but Laxman did it yet again. Ojha was given not out on an absolutely plumb LBW of course, but it evened out to the two previous shockers. Laxman’s 73* denied Ponting his first ever win on Indian soil. What a guy. Pure drama at the end, there.