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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Australia v India 2018/19: Memorable Tests over past 70 years

Ahead of India's first Test against Australia, starting in Adelaide on Thursday, Chitrabhanu Kadalayil recaps 11 of the best matches between these two sides down under

India try once again to win their first Test series in Australia. They will fancy their chances this time, given that the hosts are without two of their best batsmen – Steve Smith and David Warner – who are serving suspensions for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal that rocked the game this year.

However, Virat Kohli and his men should be mindful of history. Back in the 1970s when Test cricket had been shaken to its foundations by the rise of the World Series Cricket competition, many of the Australian cricketers had deserted the national team to play in Kerry Packer's new invention.

Yet, a second-string Australian side still managed to beat the visiting Indians in a tightly-contested series in 1977/78. In fact, all five matches of that series have been profiled in this piece.

1. Brisbane Test – 1977/78

Toss: Australia, chose to bat

Australia: 166 & 327

India: 153 and 324

Result: Australia won by 16 runs

Australian cricket was reeling after many of their big-name players joined media mogul Kerry Packer’s breakaway World Series Cricket. Bob Simpson had to be called up from retirement to lead what was a 'B' side, but what followed proved to be an exciting series that swung both ways. The first Test was marked by an exciting tussle between Simpson the batsman and Bishan Singh Bedi the bowler. Bedi won the first contest, taking five wickets, including that of Simpson for seven. But the latter hit 89 in the second innings to nullify any impact the left-arm spinner would have second time round. It was a telling knock and made all the difference as India, chasing 341 to win, were bowled out for 324 despite a fighting hundred from Sunil Gavaskar.

2. Perth Test – 1977/78

Toss: India, chose to bat

India: 402 & 330-9d

Australia: 394 & 342-8

Result: Australia won by 2 wickets

Another Test in which Bob Simpson and Bishan Singh Bedi went toe to toe. The Australia captain scored 176 even though his team ended up trailing the touring party by eight, thanks to another five-wicket haul for slow left-armer Bedi. India then sought to kill any chances of an Aussie comeback as Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath collected hundreds. Bedi declared India’s innings thereafter. But two unlikely match-winners emerged for Australia, as Tony Mann (105) and Peter Toohey (83) guided the hosts to a come-from-behind win. Two-nothing to the Aussies then, and India were back to the drawing board.

Sachin Tendulkar, left, and VVS Laxman put on a massive partnership against Australia at Sydney in the 2003/04 series. Hamish Blair / Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar, left, and VVS Laxman put on a massive partnership against Australia at Sydney in the 2003/04 series. Hamish Blair / Getty Images

3. Melbourne Test – 1977/78

Toss: India, chose to bat

India: 256 & 343

Australia: 213 & 164

Result: India won by 222 runs

This match would not go down as a classic, but it marked the first time India won a Test down under. Victory would have been extra special because of the manner in which they rebounded from two close and deflating defeats. Mohinder Amarnath led the tourists’ efforts, scoring 72, while Gundappa Viswanath chipped in with 59 as India posted what would ordinarily have been an average score of 256. But leg-spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar took six wickets to limit the Australians to 213. Sunil Gavaskar then added more pressure on the Australians with a superb hundred as his side set an imposing 387 to win. The hosts, without their usual batting stars such as Greg Chappell, folded for 164. Finally, a win for India to keep the series alive.

4. Sydney Test – 1977/78

Toss: Australia, chose to bat

Australia: 131 and 263

India: 396-8d

Result: India won by innings and 2 runs

India lost the toss but captain Bishan Singh Bedi and fellow spinner, leggie Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, combined to take seven wickets in the first innings as Australia were shot out for 131. This was followed by strong performances from nearly everyone in India’s line-up, led by Gundappa Viswanath’s 79 and all-rounder Karsan Ghavri’s 64, as the tourists declared on 396-8. The Aussies did not have a sniff, getting dismissed for 263 in the second essay, with the third spinner in the Indian XI getting in the act as off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna took 4-51. Series levelled. Game on.

Travis Head hoping to play in Adelaide this week ...

5. Adelaide Test – 1977/78

Toss: Australia, chose to bat

Australia: 505 & 256

India: 269 & 445

Result: Australia won by 47 runs

When the going got tough, Bob Simpson got going again. The experienced batsman scored a hundred to provide able support to another centurion – Graham Yallop – as Australia scored a commanding 505 in their first innings. Inexperienced fast bowler Wayne Clarke, who had been consistent throughout the series, took four wickets to help dismiss the tourists for 269. A yawning first-innings gap would have ordinarily meant Australia had the game in the bag. But they then were dismissed for 256, with left-arm seamer Karsan Ghavri and left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi taking four wickets apiece. Chasing 493 would have required incredible effort, and the Indians came close. Every batsman barring Bhagwat Chandrasekhar got double-figure scores. But they were eventually bowled out for a commendable 445 as Bruce Yardley took four wickets to put the match and a famous series to rest.

6. Melbourne Test – 1980/81

Toss: Australia, chose to field

India: 237 & 324

Australia: 419 & 83

Result: India won by 59 runs

India’s third Test win on Australian soil came in dramatic circumstances. They lost the first Test in Sydney by an innings and four runs, before managing a draw in Adelaide by the skin of their teeth. The going was not promising in Melbourne as they were dismissed for 237 after being sent in to bat. Australia got a 182-run lead thanks in large part to a hundred from Allan Border. India then posted 324 in the second innings but not before captain Sunil Gavaskar – given out lbw for 70 off the bowling of Dennis Lillee – ordered opening partner Chetan Chauhan to walk back to the pavilion with him. It was Gavaskar’s way of protesting his dismissal as he claimed the ball had hit his bat. Gavaskar’s decision to not forfeit the game paid off as the hosts were shot out for 83, with fast bowler Kapil Dev taking 5-28. Credit must also go to Gundappa Viswanath for his first-innings 114 that kept his side in the contest.

India seamer RP Singh took four Australian wickets in the first innings of the 2007/08 Perth Test. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images
India seamer RP Singh took four Australian wickets in the first innings of the 2007/08 Perth Test. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

7. Adelaide Test – 1991/92

Toss: India, chose to field

Australia: 145 & 451

India: 225 & 333

Result: Australia won by 38 runs

Another Test match that is likely to be remembered for a run chase that ended in defeat for India. Mohammed Azharuddin won the toss and sent Australia in to bat – a decision that was justified by the hosts’ capitulation for 145. India scored 225 to get a sizeable lead but still not enough runs on the board – only Kapil Dev scored a fifty as Craig McDermott took 5-76 – with the Aussies rebounding with the bat. Hundreds from Mark Taylor and David Boon, and a strong 91 by captain Allan Border ensured Australia got 451 on the board and set a challenging 372 to win. India made a good match of the chase, with Azharuddin (106) and Manoj Prabhakar (64) putting together a 101-run stand for the seventh wicket. Unfortunately for India, Azharuddin was dismissed and his team were ran out for 333. The series ended 4-0 in the home team’s favour.

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8. Adelaide Test – 2003/04

Toss: Australia, chose to bat

Australia: 556 & 196

India: 523 & 233-6

Result: India won by 4 wickets

If ever there was an example of why a team should not score their runs in a hurry in a Test match setting, Adelaide 2003 could not have made a better illustration. Australia won the toss and raced to 400 for the loss of five wickets on the first day. Yet they collapsed to 556 all out very quickly on Day 2, on the back of Ricky Ponting’s 242. This gave the more patient Indian batsmen the time to accumulate a total also in excess of 500 – 523 to be precise – as Rahul Dravid also collected a double hundred. India seamer Ajit Agarkar then bowled the spell of his Test career, taking 6-41, as Australia were bowled out for 196, giving the tourists enough time to chase down the total. Dravid once again rose to the occasion, hitting the winning runs en route to a well-compiled 72, as India took a rare series lead down under.

9. Sydney Test – 2003/04

Toss: India, chose to bat

India: 705-7d & 211-2d

Australia: 474 & 357-6

Result: Draw

Rare have been the occasions when the Aussies have been pushed to the brink of a series defeat. In Sydney 2004, India won the toss and rightly chose to bat, as they posted a mammoth 705-7 before declaring their innings. The total was underpinned by a 353-run partnership between Sachin Tendulkar (241) and VVS Laxman (178), setting up a potential match and series win. Hundreds from current coach Justin Langer (117) and Simon Katich (125) helped Australia to 474. This meant India still had a good lead, which they extended thanks to half-centuries from Rahul Dravid and Tendulkar. But the absence of an off-spinner – Harbhajan Singh was injured and unable to play – stung India once again as Langer, Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich – all left-handers – made decent scores. But it was captain Steve Waugh who had the last laugh as he top-scored with 80 in the very last innings of his illustrious Test career as the match ended in a thrilling draw. The series was split 1-1.

Murali Vijay's statement of intent ahead of 2018/19 ...

10. Perth Test – 2007/08

Toss: India, chose to bat

India: 330 & 294

Australia: 212 & 340

Result: India won by 72 runs

India were never meant to win in Perth – or so we were told – as the Waca ground housed what was once the world’s fastest pitch. How could India’s batsmen possibly do well there, especially after losing the first two Tests of the 2007/08 tour? But the tourists, perhaps emboldened by the exploits of their previous visit in 2003/04, took the attack to the Australians. They had to win to keep the series alive. Who better than Rahul Dravid (93) and Sachin Tendulkar (71) to set the tone as India posted 330. A concerted seam-bowling performance from RP Singh ensured Australia were bowled out for just 212, followed by heroic batting displays from VVS Laxman (79) and Irfan Pathan (46) to get India 294. Pathan then swapped bat for ball, taking three wickets to add to his first-innings two as Australia managed 340 but still missed the mark by 72 runs. Victory had given India a good chance to draw the series.

Virat Kohli, left, was superb with the bat in his first full Test as captain - in Adelaide during the 2014/15 series - but Australia still won there. Morne DeKlerk / Getty Images
Virat Kohli, left, was superb with the bat in his first full Test as captain - in Adelaide during the 2014/15 series - but Australia still won there. Morne DeKlerk / Getty Images

11. Adelaide Test – 2014/15

Toss: Australia, chose to bat

Australia: 517-7d & 290-5d

India: 444 & 315

Result: Australia won by 48 runs

Virat Kohli took over as India captain after an injured MS Dhoni was ruled out of the first Test of the 2014/15 tour. But while Kohli will be forgiven for feeling emotional, it was no less overwhelming a first day at the office for the Australian team. Phil Hughes, a key member of the side, had died a few days earlier after being hit by a bouncer during a domestic game. As a result, Michael Clarke and his men wanted to put their best foot forward in tribute to the young left-hander. Up stepped David Warner, who scored a brilliant century as did Clarke himself and Steve Smith, as the hosts hit a mammoth 517. Kohli gave the perfect response, hitting a hundred himself, and India were bowled out for 444. Warner scored another century as Australia set what seemed like an improbable-if-not-impossible target of 364. India came close, eventually folding up for 315, thanks in large part to Kohli again (141) and Murali Vijay (99).