Flashback: The highs & lows in India - Australia Tests over the years at the SCG

Front page banner headline in newspapers reflect the anger arising out of the 2008 SCG Test

 The ongoing second Test between Australia and India is the 100th Test at the hallowed Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Indians have fond memories of the SCG, which has seen some remarkable individual performances – notably by Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. The venue has also seen India register a rare win on Australian soil. Let’s go back in rewind mode and reflect on India’s 64-year old association with this venue.

 

Dec 12-18, 1947: 2nd Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – Match drawn.

 

The first of India’s nine Test matches against Australia at the SCG got under way on December 12, 1947 – just months afterIndia had freed herself from the shackles of British rule. Australia was led by the legendary Don Bradman and India by Lala Amarnath. Test cricket then was played over six days and an over in Australia comprised eight legitimate deliveries.

 

The Test, however, was a wet blanket. In what was an unusually wet summer, hardly 10 hours of cricket could be played over a six-day period. India were all out for 188 in the first innings – debutant Dattu Phadkar top scoring with 51. Phadkar then took three vital wickets and with the brilliance of Vijay Hazare (4-29) bowled out the Aussies for 107. Hazare four wickets included the prized wicket of Bradman – for 13!

 

In the second innings, India were 61 for the loss of seven wickets when weather had the final say.

 

India 188 (G Kishenchand 44, Dattu Phadkar 51; Colin McCool 3 for 71) and 61-7 (Bill Johnston 3-15) drew with Australia (Dattu Phadkar 3-14, Vijay Hazare 4-29)

 

Jan 26-31, 1968: 4th Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – Australia won by 144 runs

 

It took 20 long years before India played again at the SCG. Tiger Pataudi surprised everybody by deciding to bowl first on a pitch expected to favour the batsmen. Australia lost eight wickets for 98 runs to be all out for 317. The Indian top order put up a reasonably good performance led by opener Abid Ali’s 78 before he was hit wicket. The Indian middle and lower order collapse was similar to the Aussies wherein they lost the last eight wickets for 90 runs from 178 for two.

 

Australia took a 49-run lead and were in command at 222 for two. But guess what happened? They lost their last eight wickets for a paltry 70 runs! EAS Prasanna yet again took the bowling honours to haul seven wickets in the match.

 

Chasing a target of 342 runs on the fourth day, the Indian openers Farokh Engineer and Abid Ali put on 83 runs. Thanks to these two, the first hundred runs came at a run a minute. Once Abid Ali was out 19 short of his hundred, the Indians never really seemed to be in the chase and were finally bowled out for 197 by the Aussie spin combine of Bob Simpson and Bob Cowper, who claimed nine wickets between them.

 

Australia 317 (Bill Lawry 66, Paul Sheahan 72, Doug Walters 92 not out; EAS Prasanna 3-62) and 292 (Bill Lawry 52, Bob Cowper 165, EAS Prasanna 4-96) bt India 268 (Abid Ali 78, Ajit Wadekar 49, MAK Pataudi 51; Eric Freeman 4-86) and 197 (Farokh Engineer 37, Abid Ali 81; Bob Cowper 4-49, Bob Simpson 5-59) by 144 runs

 

Jan 7-12, 1978: 4th Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – India won by innings and two runs

 

India arrived at the SCG having recorded their first Test win (at the MCG) on Australian soil. It was the golden spin era of Indian cricket when Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagat Chandrasekhar and EAS Prasanna powered the Indian attack.

 

The win at MCG was largely due to Chandra’s brilliant six wicket hauls in both innings of the Test to reap a rich harvest of 12 for 104. Indiawas still trailing 1-2 in the series and were obviously looking to level it before the fifth and final Test at Adelaide.

 

Bob Simpson won the toss and decided to bat first to avoid batting last on a difficult pitch. Skipper Bedi and Chandra took seven wickets between them to bowl out Australia within four hours for a paltry 131. An excellent all-round batting response from the Indians led by GR Viswanath (79) and Karsan Ghavri (64) and poor catching from the Aussies ensured that India took a 265-run lead on the first innings.

 

Staring at an innings defeat, the Aussies struggled from the beginning and succumbed to the spin troika of Prasanna, Chandra and Bedi. The ‘magical trio’ took eight wickets between them, Prasanna leading with 4 for 51 as India drew level in the series at 2-2, setting up a thrilling decider at the Adelaide.

 

Interestingly, they didn’t have the concept of a ‘Man of the Match’ then!

 

Australia 131 (Bob Simpson 38; BS Chandrasekhar 4-30, Bishan Bedi 3-49) and 263 (Gary Cosier 68, Peter Toohey 85; EAS Prasanna 4-51) lost to India (Sunil Gavaskar 49, Chetan Chauhan 42, GR Viswanath 79, Dilip Vengsarkar 48, Syed Kirmani 42, Karsan Ghavri 64; Jeff Thomson 4-83) by an innings and two runs.

 

Jan 2-6, 1981: 1st Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – Australia won by innings and four runs

 

India’s next trip to the SCG was within three years. Sunil Gavaskar won the toss and surprisingly decided to bat first on a pitch that was expected to assist the powerful Aussie pace attack of Dennis Lillee, Rodney Hogg and Len Pascoe. Gavaskar opened the innings and was out for a duck. The Indians were routed for 201 with Lillee and Pascoe taking eight wickets between them. The only resistance came from Sandeep Patil who made a brilliant 65 before he was forced to retire after being struck on the ear by a bouncer from Pascoe while attempting his trademark hook shot without protective headgear.

 

Though the pace attack of Kapil Dev and Karsan Ghavri managed to take five wickets each, the Aussies went on to take a lead of 205 runs, thanks to an outstanding 204 from Greg Chappell who was playing only his first Test against India – just three years before his retirement from international cricket! Unable to fight an intimidating Aussie lead, the Indians were all out for 201 to lose by an innings.

 

India 201 (Sandeep 65 retired hurt; Dennis Lillee 4-86, Len Pascoe 4-61) and 201 (Chetan Chuahan 36, Dilip Vengsarkar 34, Syed Kirmani 43 not out; Dennis Lillee 3-79, Jim Higgs 4-45) lost to Australia (Greg Chappell 204, Doug Walters 67, Kapil Dev 5-97, Karsan Ghavri 5-107) by an innings and four runs.

 

Jan 2-6, 1986: 3rd Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – Match drawn

 

India came into the Test after draws in the first Test at Adelaide and the second at the MCG. Kapil Dev won the toss and decided to bat on a flat SCG wicket, ideal for batting. India put on a brilliant batting performance where only four wickets were lost over a two-day period with the declaration coming in at 600 for four. Though Krishnamachari Srikkanth scored a 97-ball century, the other centurions Gavaskar (172) and Mohinder Amarnath (138), batted with extreme caution and India managed a run-rate of just over 3.5. It was a game made more for records than for a result.

 

The Aussie response was painfully slow. Geoff Marsh spent 408 minutes at the crease to score 92 runs. What was an absolute dead rubber suddenly took an exciting turn on the fifth day. With just 54 runs required to save the follow-on at the start of the day, the Aussies lost their last five wickets for just nine runs!

 

Following on, the Aussies looked all set to close the final day before David Boon was run out with the score on 57. Wickets fell quickly in a heap and Australia was reeling at 115 for six before Greg Ritchie saved the day for them. The Indian spin combo of Ravi Shastri and Shivlal Yadav accounted for 14 of the 16 Australian wickets that fell. Had India shown urgency while batting, they could have well won the Test.

 

India 600 for 4 declared (Sunil Gavakar 172, Krishnamachari Srikkanth 116, Mohinder Amarnath 138, Kapil Dev 42, Dilip Vengsarkar 37 not out, Mohammad Azharuddin 59 not out) drew with Australia (David Boon 131, Geoff Marsh 92, Allan Border 71, Greg Matthews 40; Ravi Shastri 4-101; Shivlal Yadav 5-99) and 119-6 (Shivlal Yadav 3-19, Ravi Shastri 2-36)

 

Jan 2-6, 1991-92: 3rd Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – Match drawn

 

Welcome Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne! The Little Master was all set to play his first Test at the SCG and it was Warne’s first-ever Test match!

 

Indian captain Azharuddin won the toss and put Australia in to bat Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar and Subroto Banerjee equally sharing nine wickets between them reduced the Aussies to 313. David Boon was the highest scorer and remained unbeaten on 129 scored with a strike rate of 35.73!

 

At 201 for four, India seemed to be in a bit of a bother when Ravi Shastri and Sachin Tendulkar added 196 runs for the fifth wicket. Shastri made a double century and Tendulkar became the youngest man to score a century on Australian soil while Shane Warne ended with figures of one for 150.

Australia never looked comfortable in the second innings and were reduced to 114 for six. The partnership between captain Allan Border and Merv Hughes, which lasted for 73 minutes, diminished the chances of an Indian victory.

 

India needed to take only nine wickets for an innings victory as Bruce Reid was injured and would not have been able to come out to bat. However, with hardly any time remaining after the dismissals of Hughes and Craig McDermott, Warne blocked the last seven minutes along with Border and the match ended in a draw. India fell short by one wicket – and some time as well.

 

Australia 313 (David Boon 129, Dean Jones 35; Kapil Dev 3-60, Manoj Prabhakar 3-82 and Subroto Banerjee 3-47) and 173-8 (Mark Taylor 35, Allan Border 53 not out; Ravi Shastri 4-45) drew with India 483 (Ravi Shastri 206, Dilip Vengsarkar 54, Sachin Tendulkar 148 not out; Craig McDermott 4-147, Merv Hughes 3-104)

 

Jan 2-6, 2000: 3rd Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – Australia won by innings and 141 runs

 

With Sachin Tendulkar as captain and Kapil Dev as coach, it had already been one of the most disastrous tours to Australia, in Indian cricketing history. India came into the SCG having lost the first and second Tests.

 

Tendulkar won the toss and decided to bat in conditions expected to be conducive for the seamers. As expected, pacers Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee ripped through the Indian batting for 150 and under 68 overs.

 

A double century from Justin Langer and a century from Ricky Ponting saw Australia take a whopping lead of 402 runs. It was just a matter of time before Australia swept the series clean. Glenn McGrath picked up his second five–for in the Test to hastenIndia’s doom. The saving grace for India was a master class century by VVS Laxman – 167 in a total of 261! This was the start of Laxman’s very special relationship with the SCG.

 

India 150 (Sachin Tendulkar 45; Glenn McGrath 5-48, Brett Lee 4-39) and 261 (VVS Laxman 167; Glenn McGrath 5-55) lost toAustralia 552-5 declared (Justin Langer 223, Ricky Ponting 141 not out, Adam Gilchrist 45 not out)

 

Jan 2-6, 2004: 4th Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – Match drawn

 

On January 6, 2004, India had a great chance to win a Test at the SCG after 25 years. It was also Steve Waugh’s 168th and last Test match of an incredible career.

 

Captain Sourav Ganguly won the toss and reaped the fruits of batting on a lovely batting strip to score 705 for seven when the declaration came on the third day – Sachin Tendulkar unbeaten on 241 at the closure. Tendulkar had strung together a stand of 353 runs for the fourth wicket with VVS Laxman, who scored 178. Brett Lee’s four wickets came at the cost of 201 runs while Stuart MacGill went wicketless conceding 146 runs.

 

In reply, the Aussies fell from 214 for one to 350 for seven, thanks to some intelligent bowling by Anil Kumble before Simon Katich and Jason Gillespie put on 117 for the eighth wicket. Australia were finally bowled out for 474 with Kumble finishing with figures of 8 for 141.

 

Though India still had a lead of 231 runs, they refused to enforce the follow-on. They made a quick-fire 211 in 43 overs and putAustralia into bat at the end of the fourth day with a challenging target of 443 runs for victory.

 

On the fifth morning umpire Steve Bucknor refused to give a plumb lbw decision against Justin Langer. This meant more time for saving the game. At 196 for four, with 45 overs to go, it seemed like India had some chance. But Steve Waugh (80) managed to stand firm in his final Test match along with the stubborn Katich (77 not out) and ensured that Australia saved the game. For some time, it looked like Waugh was actually serious about chasing an almost improbable target because he managed to take them to 338 before he was finally out, caught by Tendulkar ,trying to hit Kumble for a six. They finally managed to finish at 357 for six due to lack of time, thereby 86 runs short of the target. Once again India failed to capitalise on what could have possibly been a victory.

 

India 705 for seven declared (Aakash Chopra 45, Virender Sehwag 72, Sachin Tendulkar 241 not out, VVS Laxman 178, Parthiv Patel 62; Brett Lee 4-201, Jason Gillespie 3-135) and 211-2 declared (Virender Sehwag 47, Rahul Dravid 91 not out, Sachin Tendulkar 60 not out) drew with Australia 474 (Justin Langer 117, Matthew Hayden 67, Steve Waugh 40, Simon Katich 125, Jason Gillespie 47; Anil Kumble 8-141) and 357-6 (Justin Langer 47, Ricky Ponting 47, Damien Martyn 40, Steve Waugh 80, Simon Katich 77 not out; Anil Kumble 4-138)

 

Jan 2-6, 2008: 2nd Test, Australia vs India, Sydney Cricket Ground – Australia won by 122 runs

 

The SCG Test of 2008 turned out to be one of the most controversial games in cricketing history. It ended up becoming infamous more of its non-cricketing aspects than for the game itself.

 

Captain Anil Kumble lost the toss and India were made to bowl first. At 193 for six Andrew Symonds, batting on 30, got a thick outside edge off Ishant Sharma, but umpire Steve Bucknor turned down the appeal. Symonds got another reprieve on 48, when a stumping off Anil Kumble which was referred to the third umpire, who declared the batsman ‘not out’. TV replays clearly showed that Symonds’ foot was in the air when the wicket was broken by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

 

Brad Hogg and Symonds then added 173 runs before Hogg was finally out for 79. Symonds then got a third life on 148 when umpire Steve Bucknor refused to refer a very close stumping. Australia finally finished at 463 with Symonds not out on 162.

 

Centuries from Sachin Tendulkar (154 not out) and VVS Laxman (109) ensured that India put on a very good batting response to gain a lead of 69. At 345 for seven, India looked in trouble, but a 129-run partnership between Tendulkar and Harbhajan ensured that India put on 532.

 

There was no respite for India from the horrendous umpiring decisions in the second innings as well. Mike Hussey was reprieved by umpiring decisions on 22 and 45 as Australia went on to declare at 401, setting India a target of 333 runs in 72 overs – Hussey remaining unbeaten on 145.

 

India placed themselves in a precarious situation at 54 for three. Dravid and Ganguly fought to save the Test when Dravid was given out wrongly by Bucknor, caught behind off a ball that clipped the pad. Later Michael Clarke unfairly claimed a catch of Ganguly when the ball had come off the ground. Umpire Benson went by Ricky Ponting’s word and declared Ganguly out!  India finally collapsed and were bowled out for 210 unable to play out another eight deliveries.

 

In all likelihood, this should be the last appearance at the SCG for Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Every Indian cricket fan would surely hope they not only do well at the SCG but end up on the winning side.

 

Australia 463 (Ricky Ponting 55, Andrew Symonds 162 not out, Brad Hogg 79, Brett Lee 59; RP Singh 4-124; Anil Kumble 4-106) and 401-7 declared (PA Jacques 42, Matthew Hayden 123, Mike Hussey 145 not out, Andrew Symonds 61; Anil Kumble 4-148) lost to India ( Rahul Dravid 53, VVS Laxman 109, Sachin Tendulkar 154 not out, Sourav Ganguly 67, Harbhajan Singh 63; Brett Lee 5-119) and 210 (Rahul Dravid 38, Sourav Ganguly 51, MS Dhoni 35, Anil Kumble 45 not out; Andrew Symonds 3-51, Michael Clarke 3-5)

 

(Karthik Thyagaraja, a Canada-based IT professional, is an ardent devotee of Test cricket. He is huge fan of Sachin Tendulkar and gets very animated in any discussions involving the maestro)