On this day: India completes the greatest comeback

On this day, 23 years ago, India scripted history and completed the greatest comeback in the history of cricket. Read the below article to learn about the match.

Words like greatest and best are often overused but there are some moments in cricket which are perfectly described by using such words. Shane Warne’s ball to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 was such a moment and another such time came in 2001 during an Australia tour of India. Unlike Shane Warne’s moment, it wasn’t a matter of a ball. It wasn’t a matter of over, an hour, a session or a couple of sessions, it was a whole day of magnificent batting which helped India in completing the greatest comeback. 

Humiliated at Wankhede

India of 2001 was a great team at home but the Australian team of late 1990s and early 2000s under the leadership of Steve Waugh was a force to be reckoned with. Australia came to the Indian shores in 2001 having won 15 consecutive tests. Many called winning the series in India the final frontier for the Waugh-led unit.

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Australia won the first test at Wankhede and lengthened their record of most consecutive wins in test matches to 16 (a record they would match again in 2008). Calling the performance at Wankhede just a win would be an understatement as it was nothing short of a thumping performance from a side which looked in no mood to accept a defeat.

Australia won the toss in Mumbai and elected to field first. Shane Warne, the greatest spinner of that time showed signs of greatness from the first innings of the tour itself. Warne took four wickets as India was bowled out for 176 runs despite a half-century from Sachin Tendulkar. Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist scored centuries in the second innings. Gilchrist century was the final nail in the coffin for the match as his ton came at a rate of better than run a ball. Tendulkar scored a half-century again in the third innings but India was bowled out for 219 runs and gave Australia a target of 47 runs which they managed to reach without losing a wicket.

Destiny awaits at Kolkata

Australia once again won the toss and at Kolkata, Steve Waugh had no hesitation to bat first. Australia continued its bullish ways as they went on to score 445 runs. Skipper, Waugh scored a century while Hayden missed out on his second ton of the tour by three runs. 

Harbhajan Singh became the first Indian to take a hat-trick in test cricket by dismissing Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne in a space of just three balls. Despite a 7-fer from Harbhajan, Australia was in a commanding position. At the same time, India looked helpless as the last two wickets added 133 runs for Australia with Jason Gillespie batting at number 10 scoring 46 runs.

India is rolled over

India was rolled over for 171 runs in the second innings. VVS Laxman scored 59 runs while the second-highest run scorer for India was Rahul Dravid with 25 runs. Glenn McGrath was the pick of the bowlers. The right-arm fast bowler dismissed four Indian batters while Gillespie, Warne and Michael Kasprowickz picked up two wickets each. India was asked to follow on and the rest as they is history.

India suffer yet another collapse

India was still 274 runs in the deficit when coming in to bat for the second time on Day three. Shiv Sunder Das and Sadagoppan Ramesh shared a half-century opening stand (their first in the series). Ramesh was dismissed by Warne soon after reaching the half-century stand. 

His dismissal meant that Laxman who scored a fifty in the second innings walked in at number three. Dravid had batted number three before this innings but skipper, Ganguly had swapped the positions of Laxman and Dravid. Sunder Das was dismissed by Gillespie after a 45-run stand with Laxman. 

Tendulkar was dismissed by Gillespie after scoring just 10 runs. Indian skipper stuck around for a while. Ganguly and Laxman shared a 117-run stand for the fourth wicket before McGrath dismissed Ganguly. At the time of Ganguly’s dismissal, India was still trailing by 42 runs and it appeared like Australia was on course to win their 17th consecutive test match. At the end of the day India had scored 254 runs for the loss of four wickets with centurion VVS Laxman joined by Rahul Dravid. What happened the next day was what history is written about.

Laxman and Dravid bat for a whole day

India was still adrift of Australia’s first innings by 20 runs when the day four started. Both Rahul and Laxman batted for the whole day without being much troubled by the Aussie bowlers which included the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Both Dravid and Laxman were not at their 100% but only a few would say that the two gave anything less than their 200% on the field that day. Dravid was suffering from fever while Laxman was having a struggle with his back pain. Their innings were of such control that the duo hit 64 boundaries but did not hit a single six. In 90 overs of play, India scored 335 runs and went in a lead of 315 runs. India declared before lunch on day five and ended up with 657 runs in their second innings and gave Australia a target of 384 runs. 

Matthew Hayden gave Australia yet another good start with a half-century. It was the Indian spinners who dominated the visitors batting in the fourth innings with Harbhajan Singh picking up six wickets while Sachin Tendulkar picked three wickets. Venkatapathy Raju too picked up a wicket. Australia were bowled out for 212 runs as the hosts levelled the series with a 171-run victory. This was Australia’s first defeat after winning 16 test matches in a row.

India wins the series

The two teams arrived at Chennai to play the decider match. Australia won the toss and batted first. Matthew Hayden carried his form to the MA Chidambaram Stadium and scored a brilliant double-century. Mark Waugh too chipped in with a knock of 70 runs. Australia ended up with a score of 391 runs in the first innings. Harbhajan Singh replicated his match-winning bowling performance from Kolkata in Chennai and picked up seven wickets in the first innings.

In reply, the Indian top three of Shiv Sunder Das, Sadagoppan Ramesh and VVS Laxman scored half-centuries. Sachin Tendulkar scored a century while Rahul Dravid batting at number five too scored a half-century. India ended up with 501 runs and took a lead of 110 runs.

Harbhajan Singh was once again the star performer for India in the third innings. The Indian off-spinner picked up eight wickets in the fourth innings as Australia was bowled out for 264 runs and set India a target of 155 runs.

India chased down the total thanks to a half-century from VVS Laxman and won the match by two wickets. The series started with Australia being the favourites and remained the favourites till day four of the second test at the iconic Eden Gardens.