© Getty Images
The partnership between Damien Martyn and Jason Gillespie at Chepauk Stadium (now MA Chidambaram Stadium) turned out to be the deciding factor © Getty Images

Though Australia continue to dominate the overall head-to-head numbers, India have taken them by horns since mid-1990s. How did things change following India’s resistance Down Under in 2003-04? Abhishek Mukherjee narrates the final and most recent part of the four-part series.

Australia definitely had a head-start, but India did not give in easily once they turned the tables round in the mid-1990s. There have been ups and downs, clashes on and off the field, legends have bid farewell, new talents have come in; the intensity of the contest has never waned.

Here, then, is the last instalment of the four-part series: what did the Australians do after their failure to beat India at home in 2003-04?

19. Australia in India, 2004-05: Australia 2, India 1

Steve Waugh had called it “the final frontier”. He had failed to beat India at their den. Australia had returned empty-handed five times from the Indian shores since Bill Lawry’s side had won a series in 1968-69. The duration outlasted the entire careers of Allan Border, Steve Waugh, and Mark Taylor.

Disaster struck for Australia even before the series started, with Ricky Ponting being ruled out for at least three Tests. Adam Gilchrist led Australia, and India, having drawn the series in Australia and defeated Pakistan in Pakistan, certainly had their tails up. They were, after all, extremely difficult to beat at home, what with both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh fit.

India reduced Australia to 149 for four at Chinnaswamy before a 23-year old took off. He soared in a fashion so majestic and joyous that the crowd forgot to boo the locals. Michael Clarke’s emphatic 151 on debut, assisted by 86 from Simon Katich and 104 from Gilchrist, saw Australia reach 474.

Aakash Chopra and Rahul Dravid registered ducks (Dravid’s sequence read a bizarre nought, 270, nought) against Glenn McGrath, and no Indian reached fifty as they were bowled out for 246. Harbhajan fought back, adding six wickets to the five he already had from the first innings, and India were eventually left to chase 457.

The steam went out of them by the fourth evening. Being reduced to 19 for four they somehow ambled to 105 for six at stumps. Dravid fell on the fifth morning, and though Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan added 89 and Zaheer Khan slogged wildly, India lost by 217 runs with plenty to spare.

Chepauk saw some excellent sporting gesture from both sides, with batsmen intending to walk if he felt he was out. Kumble bowled his heart out, skittling Australia for 235 with figures of seven for 48 on Day One. Shane Warne responded in style with six for 125, but it was Virender Sehwag who stole the limelight. The 221-ball 155 was scored out of 233 India managed during his stay.

With Mohammad Kaif and Parthiv Patel also scoring fifties, India secured a 141-run lead. Kumble took out three quick wickets (Gilchrist had promoted himself to three to unsettle the spinners), and when Jason Gillespie walked out to join Damien Martyn, as night-watchman, Australia were a mere nine ahead with six wickets in hand.

It seemed to be India’s match (Kumble had already taken ten in the Test), but Gillespie went on to play out 165 balls, helping Martyn take Australia further and further away from India’s grip. Darren Lehmann and Warne also contributed, and though Kumble finished with 13 wickets, India needed to score 229 for a win. It was not impossible, but certainly not easy.

Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh went about their business, helping India reach 19 without loss in three overs at stumps. Then the skies opened, and no further play was possible. Would the series have changed, had there been play on Day Five? One can only speculate.

A green pitch and last-minute withdrawals of Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan were blows from which India never recovered at Nagpur. Though Zaheer reduced Australia to 86 for three, another hundred from Martyn and fifties from Lehmann and Clarke saw Australia reach 398. India collapsed to 185 in response, with only Kaif crossing fifty. Martyn (97) missed out his second hundred, Katich scored 99, Clarke 73, and India were left to score 543 or bat for five sessions or so.

Once they were reduced to 37 for five they did not have a chance. Sehwag, Parthiv, Ajit Agarkar, Murali Kartik, and Zaheer hit out lustily, but they hardly provided anything beyond entertainment. “The final frontier” was conquered with a day and more to spare.

India made a few changes for the fourth Test at Wankhede, but things to go the same way for them. No one barring Dravid (31) crossed 16 as Gillespie and Nathan Hauritz bowled India out for 104 before Martyn’s 55 gave them a 99-run lead. Then Dravid promoted VVS Laxman.

Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar put up an exhibition of how to conquer spin on a crumbling pitch. They added 91, both scored fifties, and though Dravid and Kaif fought back India lost their last six wickets for 23 (all of them to Clarke, who picked up six for nine).

Few gave India a chance to defend 107, but Harbhajan (opening bowling) and Kartik (introduced in the fifth over) reduced the tourists to 58 for seven. They were eventually bowled out for 93, and 107 remains the lowest score India has ever defended. Kumble had six for 95, Harbhajan five for 82, but the award went to Kartik, who finished with seven for 76.

20. India in Australia, 2007-08: Australia 2, India 1

umpires and harbhajan
From left, Steve Bucknor, Mark Benson, and Harbhajan Singh dominated the news so much that even Sachin Tendulkar paled in comparison © Getty Images

India reached Australia in 2007-08 with Kumble at the helm. Unfortunately, weather and a poorly-drawn schedule prevented the tourists from having practice matches. There was no McGrath, Warne, or Gillespie for Australia, which probably gave India a whiff of a chance — especially after Zaheer and Kumble bowled them out for 343 on a flat MCG track.

The tourists were bowled out for 196 in response, with Tendulkar being the only one to reach 50. Brett Lee and Stuart Clark shared eight wickets between them. Australia batted at four runs an over as seven of their top nine crossed 30. Set to score 499 India lost the Test by 337 runs on Day Four. This time nobody reached fifty.

The drama started at SCG with Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson dishing out a plethora of horror decisions (Bruce Oxenford, in front of the television, did not do any better). RP Singh and Harbhajan bowled with fire; Australia were 134 for six; then Bucknor overruled an edge of Symonds and did not consult Oxenford when needed; when he did, Symonds was ruled not out for a stumping; the Indian shoulders started dropping. Symonds slammed 162; Brad Hogg and Lee also scored fifties before Mitchell Johnson slogged it out; and Australia reached 463.

India did not bother. Laxman scored his third hundred — all of them special performances under pressure — in as many innings at SCG, while Tendulkar outdid him with 154. Ganguly and Harbhajan went past the 60-mark, and India secured a 69-run lead. Ponting set India 333: would they go for it?

Bucknor and Benson had already underperformed in the Test, but they reached their nadir during this innings. There was broad daylight (and a pad) between Dravid’s bat and the ball before Gilchrist — the man who had walked in a World Cup semifinal — caught it and appealed; and Benson consulted Ponting and Clarke (the latter had pretended a blatant edge had not happened when he faced Kumble) whether he had caught one cleanly off Ganguly’s bat, and gave Ganguly out.

[This has to be one of the most confusing decisions in history. If Ponting and Clarke had appealed, obviously they did so because they thought Clarke had taken the catch cleanly. Why ask them, then?]

There were other howlers (all of which, surprisingly, went against India), but they had only themselves to blame when they could not bat out six balls from Clarke, who was bowling the penultimate over. But India’s problems did not end there: the infamous “Monkeygate” scandal broke out with allegations that Harbhajan had called Symonds “a monkey”; it took authorities a couple of levels higher to settle things.

Once again Australia had won 16 Tests in a row. Once again the onus was on India to stop them break their own record, this time at WACA. The Indian fightback started with a 139-run partnership between Dravid and Tendulkar before some excellent bowling from RP and Irfan gave India a 108-run lead.

Kumble promoted Irfan to three, and between them he and Sehwag (making a comeback) increased the tempo. Laxman came to his elements, scoring 79 and adding 75 with MS Dhoni and 51 with RP, and eventually taking the target to 413. Ponting took up the willow. And Ishant Sharma bowled.

It was this spell from hell to Ponting that turned Ishant into an overnight star. He found accuracy, movement off the pitch, and steep bounce — all at good pace. Ponting struggled for long before edging to first slip: it almost came as a relief to him. Irfan, RP, Kumble, and Sehwag all chipped in, and India won by 72 runs despite a last-minute scare by Johnson.

Another Tendulkar hundred (and four fifties, including two from Harbhajan and Kumble) saw India reached 526 at Adelaide Oval, but Matthew Hayden, Ponting, and Clarke all scored hundred to give Australia a 37-run lead. India kept losing wickets at regular intervals but managed to draw the Test, finishing on 269 for seven (additionally, Dravid was retired hurt); a delightful 236-ball 151 from Sehwag was good news for India.

21. Australia in India, 2008-09: India 2, Australia 0

ishant sharma
A rampant Ishant Sharma gave India hope. Alas, temporarily © Getty Images

Australia’s return series started with Zaheer dismissing Katich off the third ball at Chinnaswamy. Ponting overcame his poor record in India with a hundred, Clarke scored 146, and though Australia reached 430 the Indian seamers, Zaheer and Ishant, put up an exceptional display, especially with the old ball. Johnson restricted India to 360.

Then the Indians went on the defensive, putting a 7-2 offside field to restrict the scoring rate. The Australians scored at a snail’s pace before throwing away good starts (the top four scored 95 between them from 286 balls; this, despite the fact that Kumble was injured). India gave up the chase of 299 after they lost Sehwag and Dravid early and finished on 177 for four.

Kumble missed the second Test at Mohali as Dhoni took over. Ganguly scored an outstanding 102 and Tendulkar went past Brian Lara’s career aggregate of 11,953. Amit Mishra, Kumble’s replacement, took five for 71 in the first innings on debut. India did not impose the follow-on: Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag started furiously; Dhoni promoted himself to three; and there was some tonking from Ganguly and Tendulkar before they set Australia 516 in a day and a half.

Hayden and Katich added 49, and Clarke and Brad Haddin put up 84 for the sixth stand; nothing else went Australia’s way. The pick of the bowlers was certainly Ishant, who brought the old ball in at unreal angles on a consistent basis; unfortunately, he was rewarded with only two wickets. The others were more fortunate, and India won by 320 runs.

For the first time in history two Indians — Gambhir (206) and Laxman (200 not out) — scored double-hundreds in the same innings before Kumble, now back at the expense of an injured Harbhajan, declared at 613 for seven at Kotla. Unfortunately, he injured a finger and could not bowl at his best on his favourite ground.

Sehwag picked up five wickets as Australia went into a baffling crawl once again. Leading by 36, India were reduced to 53 for three before Gambhir, Tendulkar, Laxman, and Ganguly almost batted it out — till the bombshell was dropped. Kumble announced his retirement mid-innings. He declared to give himself a bowl of four overs, but there was no fairytale as a grand career faded into the horizon.

Jason Krejza made his debut at Nagpur and finished with somewhat unusual figures of 43.1-1-215-8. India, led by a Tendulkar hundred and fifties from Laxman, Ganguly, and Dhoni, piled up 441. In response, Katich and Michael Hussey carried Australia to 229 for two before they collapsed to 355, thanks to some splendid old-ball seam bowling.

Sehwag and debutant Murali Vijay built on the lead before Shane Watson and Krejza made the breakthroughs. With India down at 166 for six Australia sniffed a chance, but some bizarre captaincy from Ponting allowed the Test to drift. It probably had to do with over-rates, but Ponting preferred Cameron White, Clarke, and Hussey to bowl ahead of Johnson, Lee, and Watson.

Dhoni and Harbhajan scored fifties and added 108, batting Australia out of the Test. Krejza’s bizarre Test continued (31-3-143-4), and the Australian resistance ended with Hayden’s 77. India reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-0 win. Dhoni, having asked Ganguly to lead for the final session in the final Test of his career, shared the Trophy with Kumble at the podium. Ishant won a deserving Man of the Series award.

22. Australia in India, 2010-11: India 2, Australia 0

laxman and ojha
All is well that ends well. Pragyan Ojha and VVS Laxman after that historic stand at Mohali © Getty Images (File Photo)

Australia came back for a two-Test series two years later. This time they had Shane Watson at the top, who scored a steady 126 at Mohali. With Ponting and Tim Paine also chipping in, Australia scored 428 despite Zaheer’s five-wicket haul, mostly because Ishant injured his knee on Day One. Four of the five were left-handers. Four Indians (Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, and Suresh Raina) scored fifties, and India kept the deficit to 23. Nursing a back problem, Laxman batted at ten and scored two.

Watson and Katich added 87 this time, but a few false strokes and some sharp bowling from Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha left India with a target of 216. They were 55 for four at stumps, and though Zaheer hung around and Tendulkar scored a few, things looked hopeless when Ishant joined Laxman at 124 for eight.

Laxman, batting with Raina as his runner, did not hesitate to give Ishant the strike. Runs came in singles (punctuated by the occasional boundary), and Laxman and Ishant added 81 for the ninth wicket against all odds before Ishant got a poor decision against Hilfenhaus (replays showed the ball missing leg-stump).

Laxman, the ubiquitous Australian nemesis, did everything possible (including losing his temper on field and shouting at Ojha when the poor youngster turned a single down) to win the Test; and pulled it off.

The second Test at Chinnaswamy as almost an anticlimax after the drama. Marcus North’s hundred helped Australia reach 478, but a 308-run third-wicket partnership between Vijay and Tendulkar gave India a 17-run lead. Ponting stood among the ruins to score an outstanding 72, but India were left to score a mere 207. There was a minor scare when Sehwag fell early, but debutant Cheteshwar Pujara, sent at three, showed no nerves and his 89-ball 72 saw India race to victory with a run rate of 4.60.

23. India in Australia, 2011-12: Australia 4, India 0

© Getty Images
The Indians would have given anything to see the back of Michael Clarke that summer © Getty Images

Remember the famous fox-and-crane story from Aesop’s Fables? The fox invited the crane and served soup on saucers, the crane invited him back and served soup in long, narrow-necked pitchers…? The two one-sided whitewashes that followed are probably reminiscent of the story.

India had suffered a 0-4 whitewash in England earlier in 2011. Things could only get better in Australia. Or so they thought: the defeats — by 122 runs, an innings and 68 runs, an innings and 37 runs, and 298 runs — left no doubt regarding the difference in pedigree between the sides.

The closest India came to a contest was during the first Test at MCG. Having bowled the hosts out for 333, India had reached 214 for two, taking control of the situation. Then everything came crumbling: Hilfenhaus took five and India ended up 51 runs behind. Umesh Yadav kept the Indian hopes up as Australia became 27 for four, but Ponting and Hussey ended up adding 115. Chasing 292 India folded for 169 against the Australian seamers.

Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson, and Peter Siddle blew apart India for 191 at SCG. India reduced Australia to 37 for three — before Ponting (134), Clarke (329 not out), and Hussey (150 not out) took the score to 659 for four. India fought hard (Gambhir, Tendulkar, Laxman, and Ravichandran Ashwin all crossed sixty), but the chasm was too big. They were bowled out for 400 on Day Four and lost by an innings.

Clarke went in with four fast bowlers at WACA, and India were skittled out for even less. To make things worse, David Warner reached 104 by stumps, taking Australia to 149 without loss after India scored 161. Warner’s 180 came off 159 balls, and though Umesh claimed five for 93, India still conceded a 208-run lead. India were bowled out for 171 (Dravid and Virat Kohli scored 122 of these) and conceded the Trophy.

Adelaide Oval saw India gaining an upper hand again as Australia slipped to 84 for three. Thereafter it was the same old story, with Ponting (221) and Clarke (210) adding 386. Up against 604 for seven, Kohli announced his arrival with an emphatic 116, but India still trailed by 332.

Clarke decided to bat again, and set India a target of 500. The Indians were expected to crumble against pace, but Nathan Lyon caused the most damage, taking four wickets (including those of Sehwag, Tendulkar, and Laxman). India were bowled out for 201 on the fifth morning. The fourth evening witnessed, without any fanfare, Dravid and Laxman walk out of international cricket for the last time.

24. Australia in India, 2012-13: India 4, Australia 0

ravichandran ashwin
In a series of some exceptional individual performances, Ravichandran Ashwin was named Man of the Series © Getty Images

As mentioned above, India dished out the exact treatment they had received Down Under a year back, whitewashing Australia by exactly the same margin. As in Australia, the margins were convincing, though not as much: eight wickets, an innings and 135 runs, six wickets, and six wickets.

Australia started in fine fashion at Chepauk with Clarke’s 130 taking them to 380, Ashwin prevailing with seven for 103. Dhoni’s record-breaking 224 and Kohli’s 107, however, gave India a 192-run lead before Ashwin came to the forefront again, taking five for 95 and bowling out Australia for 241. The only resistance coming from Moises Henriques, who followed his 68 with 81 not out. The runs were scored in less than an hour (with Tendulkar becoming the first to hit sixes off the first two balls he faced in the innings).

Australia scored 237 and 131 at Uppal, slightly more than what Vijay (167) and Pujara (204) did. The pair put up 370 for the second wicket, and Australia were never in the Test barring a 145-run fifth-wicket partnership between Clarke and Matthew Wade (that had once taken them to 208). Ashwin took his regulation five-for, and Australia sunk by an innings. Clarke had declared the first innings, which made Australia the first team to declare an innings and yet lose by an innings.

Before the Mohali Test, four players — Watson, Johnson, Usman Khawaja, and Pattinson — were suspended on disciplinary grounds for not submitting certain PowerPoint presentations on time (the incident came to be known as “Homeworkgate”). The “survivors” began well, scoring 408: Mitchell Starc scored 99 and Steve Smith 92 after Warner (71) and Ed Cowan (86) added 139 for the first wicket.

With the first day washed out, chances of an Indian victory were bleak. Then the Australians were hit by Shikhar Dhawan before they realised what had hit them. Dhawan reached his 100 off 85 balls (the fastest by any debutant), eventually scored a 174-ball 187, and when he eventually fell India had reached 289 in the 60th over. Kohli chipped in with a few runs, and India secured a 92-run lead.

This time only Phillip Hughes put up some resistance before Starc and Xavier Doherty added 44 for the last stand. No Indian reached 40 during the chase, but 133 was too small a target to bother them. The Trophy had changed hands.

Not only did Watson return at Kotla, but he also led Australia in an injured Clarke’s absence. Once again the Australian bowlers fought back with the bat with Siddle and Pattinson adding 54 for the ninth wicket. Australia scored 262, and though Vijay and Pujara (opening in the absence of the injured Dhawan) added 108, Lyon’s seven for 94 restricted India to 272.

Unfortunately, the Australians could not fight back. This time Ravindra Jadeja took centrestage with five for 58. Siddle scored his second fifty of the match, and though Vijay fell early, Australia were never in the Test. Pujara (82 not out from 92) and Kohli added 104 in 123 balls, and that was that.

Click here to read India vs Australia past encounters: Part 1 of 4

Click here to read India vs Australia past encounters: Part 2 of 4

Click here to read India vs Australia past encounters: Part 3 of 4

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)