Back in March 2001, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh scripted India's greatest Test victories in an epic INDIA v AUSTRALIA series. This match is often referred to as THE match that redefined Indian cricket. Thanks to their heroics, Sourav Ganguly's Team India crushed the all-conquering Australia Test side by 171 runs on March 15, 2001, in what is regarded as one of the greatest test matches ever played in India.
The Australian cricket team toured India in early 2001 for a three-Test series, what followed is an incredible story:
First the build-up
The visiting Australian side of the time was the greatest test cricket had ever seen. They were on a world record 15 match win streak. But Australia had not won a Test series on Indian soil since 1969, leading captain Steve Waugh to call this series the FINAL FRONTIER for his rampaging side.The Indian cricket team at the time was depleted. Without leading leg spinner Anil Kumble, a 20-year-old Harbhajan Singh, was entrusted with leading the spin attack.
First Test in Mumbai
- In their first innings, India lost early wickets including Dravid and Ganguly and were 62 for 4 at lunch
- Sachin Tendulkar leads a counterattack making a fighting 76, but India was eventually bowled out for 176
- The next morning Harbhajan bowled a tantalizing spell of 3 wickets for 8 runs and had Australia on the mat at 99 for 5
- But Gilchrist and Hayden fought back with a 197 run partnership in just 32 overs. Such was the rate of scoring that Gilchrist moved from 50 to 100 in just 29 balls
- Australia finished their innings on 349, a lead of 173
- India struggled to score in the second innings with Tendulkar again top-scoring with 65 but India’s second innings will be most remembered for an injured Javagal Srinath attempting to bat with one hand and the angry exchange between Slater and Dravid because of the disagreement on Slater cleanly catching Dravid
- India could only amass 219 in reply and Australia scored the 47 in just seven overs
Australia extended their world record with a 16th consecutive win and Ganguly was booed off the ground.
The Second Test at the Home of the Prince of Calcutta
- With India’s number 1 paceman Javagal Srinath joining Kumble on the sidelines, most people predicted an Australian whitewash
- And with Australia on 193/1 on Day 1, the predictions were ominous
- But Harbhajan fought back in the final session of day one and became the first Indian to claim a Test hat-trick. But that still didn’t stop Australia from putting 445 on the board.
- In reply, the Indian batting lineup collapsed – all out for 171.
- Leading by 274 runs, Steve Waugh decided to enforce the follow on, a decision that would later be scrutinized heavily and almost serve as a deterrent to any future visiting captain.
- India ended day 3 at 252/4, still trailing by 20. Laxman was anchoring the innings, unbeaten at 109 and Rahul Dravid was new to the crease at that point.
- Day 4 is the miracle day that no Indian Test fan can ever forget.
- Laxman and Dravid batted out the entire day taking India to 589/4, with a 315 run lead. At the end of the day, they were so dehydrated, that both had to be put on saline drips.
- India finally declared their innings at 657/7 leaving the Aussies to chase down 384 runs which if chased would be a new world record.
- But the Aussies never give up. They raced to 166/3 in 45 overs, and with 30 overs left in the game, a draw was imminent. In fact when Ganguly dropped a catch of Steve Waugh at leg slip off, Waugh said to him, "I don't think you are going to win the Test match".
- Then came something special – the young Harbhajan Singh turned the game around. He dismissed Ponting and Waugh in quick succession.
- Sachin Tendulkar then managed to dismiss Adam Gilchrist off his first ball, before taking out the menacing Hayden and Shane Warne to end his spell.
- Australia was bowled out with only 6 overs left in the day.
- It was a historic win, which had put an end to Australia’s dominance in world cricket.
Series Tied 1-1 and onto the Third Test in Chennai
- Australia came back fighting in the first innings reaching 340/3 on the second morning.
- But then disaster struck when Steve Waugh became only the sixth batsman to be given out "handled the ball". Waugh's dismissal instigated a batting collapse, Australia losing 6 wickets for 51 runs to be bowled out for 391
- On the back of a Tendulkar hundred, India scored 501 in their first innings reply
- The Australian batsmen were again unable to cope with Harbhajan in the second innings, who took 8/84 to end with match figures of 15/217
- Australia was bowled out for 264 and India needed just 155 to win a historic test series
- Cruising at 101/2 there was yet another twist remaining in this dramatic series. India lost 6 wickets and were 151/8, but fittingly out walked Harbhajan to hit the winning runs
- The "turbanator" was named man of the match and man of the series, having taken 32 wickets in the series
- This test series is considered one of India's all-time greatest achievements in Test Cricket.
- The second test was only the third time ever that a team had come back to win a test after following on. Ganguly called it a “defining moment of Indian cricket”
- But a one-off test win wouldn’t have been defining, its how the team came back after comprehensively loosing in Mumbai and being written off by everyone on. And most importantly against a team that kept fighting, a team that did not know how to lose!
Team India's challenge was overcoming one of, if not the best Test side to ever play the game. Australia was on a world record, 15 matches win streak in Tests when they arrived in India for the epic three-match series.