Best of India in Australia: Anil Kumble’s 12 at the SCG
Anil Kumble walks off the SCG field after taking 8/141. @AFP

The drawn 2003-04 series between India and Australia in Australia is remembered not just for the scoreline – the hosts were widely tipped to win the four-match Test series – but for the individual performances that made headline and contributed to a memorable contest in what was Steve Waugh’s farewell series.

The first Test in Brisbane was drawn, as Sourav Ganguly scored an emphatic 144 to lay down the marker. Then came an epic Indian win in Adelaide, headlined by Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar’s six-wicket haul, to put Ganguly’s team up 1-0. Australia won at the MCG, crushing India by nine wickets to set up a tasty decider.

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As it panned out, Waugh’s 168th and final Test ended in a draw, with the series shared after four engaging matches against Ganguly’s brave Indian team. It was a gripping Test, with India dominating after Ganguly won the toss and opted to bat under a blazing hot sky.

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India’s then record total of 705/7 was centred around an out-of-form Sachin Tendulkar’s monumental unbeaten 241 – his 32nd Test century, level with Waugh – in which he made a conscious effort to play the ball to leg (28 of his 33 boundaries and 188 of his runs came to the on-side) and featured in an Indian record fourth-wicket alliance of 353 with Laxman (178).

Australia replied with 474, which would have been more if not for Anil Kumble’s heroic 8/141 which helped secure India a 231-run lead. These were the best figures at the SCG since 1898, and the fourth best ever. In the process, Kumble equaled Kapil Dev’s Indian record of 23 five-wicket hauls of better in a Test innings.

Anil Kumble gets Matthew Hayden to snap a strong opening stand
Anil Kumble gets Matthew Hayden to snap a strong opening stand. @AFP

That 8/141 were Kumble’s best overseas and underlined his lion-hearted resilience. Four of them came on day three to peg Australia back to 342/6, after he snapped a dominant opening stand from Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. Even when Langer tore Murali Kartik to shreds,  Kumble persisted and his variations accounted for the batsman before Ricky Ponting was trapped lbw for 25.

Four more on day four bowled the hosts out, though Ganguly was criticised for not enforcing the follow-on, after which Rahul Dravid (91*) and Tendulkar (60*) extended the lead to 442.

At 196/4 on day five, Australia were seen out of any potential trouble by Waugh and Simon Katich, who starred in a superb passage of batting. Waugh’s final innings ended on 80 when he swung Kumble to the deep and he received an emotional standing ovation from the Sydney faithful.

Katich weighed in with an unbeaten 77, Kumble had 12 for the match, and India had failed to close out a win that would have given them their first series success on Australian soil. Still, the image of Kumble walking off the SCG field with the ball raised high stood out.