The miracles of Kolkata and Adelaide Tests in the new millennium

By Kersi Meher-Homji

Cricket lovers in India, Australia and all over the world are still talking about the magical Brisbane Test last week which an injury-ridden India won by 3 wickets in the final pulsating minutes.

May I remind readers that India had recorded similar unexpected victories over Australia; at Kolkata and Adelaide in the new millennium?

Kolkata Test’s amazing turnaround in March 2001

The second Test in Kolkata will go down in cricket history and literature as one of the greatest. Oozing with confidence, Australia scored 445 mainly through Matthew Hayden’s 97 and skipper Steve Waugh’s 110. But from 4 for 252 Australia tumbled to 7 for 252 as off-spinner Harbhajan Singh took a hat-trick. He claimed the wickets of Ricky Ponting for six runs and of Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne for ducks. The last five wickets added 193 runs as the visitors totaled 445. The twists and turns of the amazing Test had started.

On a good pitch the Indian batsmen disappointed as speedster Glenn McGrath captured 4 for 18 in 14 overs. The elegant VVS Laxman top-scored with 59 but India was bundled out for 171 and forced to follow on. Laxman’s lone resistance made India’s captain Sourav Ganguly promote him from number 6 to number 3. And what an inspired move this turned out to be!

Trailing by 274 runs India was 4 down for 232, still 42 runs in arrears when Rahul Dravid joined VVS Laxman. The two elegant Indian artists rewrote many records as they added a massive 376 for the sixth wicket.

They batted together for 104 overs including the entire fourth day when they sparkled with 335 runs in 90 overs. VVS’s 281 was a masterpiece and the then highest by an Indian in Test cricket. It included 44 fours. Dravid was run out for a chanceless 180 that included 21 fours. It was awe-inspiring just to watch their masterclass, bringing India from hopelessness to glory. Later Steve Waugh described VVS’s performance as “some of the best batting I’ve ever seen”.

Ganguly declared at 7 for 657 with a lead of 383 runs and everyone thought the match would be drawn as Australia had to bat for only 75 overs on a pitch that was turning but not devilish. However, Harbhajan thought differently. He captured 6 for 73 and Tendulkar 3 for 31 including Gilchrist’s wicket for a duck and Australia was shot out for 212 to lose by 171 runs. It was a match to forget for Gilchrist and Warne, who failed to score in both innings. Mark Waugh and Ponting also joined the ”˜duck club’.

Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack described this victory by India as astonishing.

The series was now tentalizingly level at 1-1. It must have been difficult to pick the Man of the Match, VVS or Dravid for their 376-run match-winning stand or Harbhajan for his 13 wickets haul. VVS got this honour. India went on to win the 3-Test series 2-1.

VVS and Dravid excel again as India win the Adelaide Test of December 2003

This Test was incredible as the team which totaled 556 in the first innings ended up losing. It must have been especially heartbreaking for Ricky Ponting who scored a classy 242 in the first innings, hitting 31 fours. He blew a kiss to his wife when he reached 200. Anil Kumble took five wickets but gave away 154 runs.

India started badly, losing 4 for 85, but was rescued by ”“ you guessed it ”“ Dravid (233) and VVS Laxman (148) who added 303 for the fifth wicket. It was batsmanship at its sublime best. Was it Oh Kolkata once again, the Aussies wondered with a shiver? India amassed 523, only 33 behind.

India’s medium-pacer Ajit Agarkar surprised the Aussie batsmen, swinging the ball both ways as he captured 6 for 41 and Australia was dismissed for 196. Set 230 to win in 100 overs, India was struggling at 4 for 170 but Dravid ”˜The Wall’ took them to a four-wicket victory with an unbeaten 72. Deservedly, he hit the winning run, a four from spinner Stuart MacGill. Steve Waugh chased the ball and presented it to Dravid saying: “Well played.”

Dravid had scored 305 runs in this Test and was the popular Man of the Match. India led the series 1-0 with two Tests to go. It was the first time that India had been ahead in a series in Australia. The 4-Test series was drawn 1-1.

The above Kolkata and Adelaide Tests played two years apart had amazing similarities with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman playing stellar roles. Wisden described this astonishing win for India at Adelaide as a replica of the Kolkata magic two years ago.

Almost two decades later India humbled Australia with a 2-1 series victory to retain the Border – Gavaskar Trophy after a thrilling draw in Sydney and an incredible win in Brisbane in January 2021.

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