The best of India in Australia: Sourav Ganguly takes Australia on with daring assault
Sourav Ganguly's 144 at Brisbane set the tone for a tough series. @Getty

India and Australia played out some riveting cricket at the turn of the century. Of course, everyone is familiar with the historic 2001 series where India beat Australia 2-1 to stop their 16-match undefeated streak. The series that changed the course of Indian cricket.

But the four-match Test series that took place two years later in Australia was an equally significant one in helping India assert their mettle overseas.

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With revenge on their mind, Australia welcomed India for the first Test in Brisbane, a surface that had more than just a ‘tinge of grass’ on it. India had played a practice game against Australia A and were bowled out for 245. It was believed that Australia would steamroll them, and India seemed to be heading there at 62 for 3. But a defiant leader in Sourav Ganguly dished out one of the most defining knocks of his career, that not only ensured a draw, but set the tone for India’s strong performance throughout the series.

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Openers Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra had taken India to 61, before Australia struck to remove three wickets in three overs. Sehwag edged Nathan Bracken to slips, and a run later, Rahul Dravid was squared up by a ball that seamed late. The big blow arrived three balls later when Sachin Tendulkar received a rough decision from Steve Bucknor. No surprises there.

Apart from the two centuries Ganguly scored in his first two Test innings, the left-hander did not boast a quality hundred overseas. That changed on day three of the Gabba Test. The captain scored a stunning 144, laced with 18 boundaries that not only saved India embarrassment, but also injected a fresh lease of life in his batting. He took on the Australian attack with a daring assault. Sure enough, they were without Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne, but Jason Gillespie was an established named, Bracken was spoken of highly and Andy Bichel was more than just a partnership-breaker.

The innings, as it progressed, was a fine exhibition of a trademark Ganguly innings. Having taken batting tips from Greg Chappell  prior to the Test, Ganguly was offered plenty of room outside off stump, and he cashed in by cutting, slashing and driving; at times even edging, over slips/gully. Only four of his 18 boundaries came on the leg-side. The ploy of attacking Ganguly with the short ball backfired as he unleashed a relentless assault on Steve Waugh’s Australia.

Ganguly partnered VVS Laxman in a 146-run stand, and almost overshadowed his partner. The way he took them on was the most striking feature of his innings. In reply to Australia’s first-innings total, Ganguly’s knock had given India 409, and as rain had its share in the match, Ganguly ensured India went into Adelaide high on confidence.