Video: Sachin Tendulkar’s majestic 155 sets up Chennai Test against Australia
Oman celebrate their historic win over Ireland on Wednesday night. Photo courtesy: PA Images & @RyanK_Bailey on Twitter

The first Test played between India and Australia under Border-Gavaskar Trophy was a one-off Test in 1996 in Delhi, and the hosts won it with quite ease. In 1998, Australia returned for a three-Test match tour and it was more publicised as the battle between two top cricketers — Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne — both in their prime.

Tendulkar went through intense practice to counter the Warne threat. He even summoned former leg-spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and Sairaj Bahutule to the nets and made them bowl to the rough he created outside leg-stump. He knew Warne would try to dismiss him round the legs. The Master Blaster won the first round when he smashed Warne to pulp in a warm-up game for Mumbai at Brabourne, where he smacked an unbeaten 204 from 194 balls. He brought up his first double First-Class ton and Mumbai beat Australians on the third day. Warne went for 111 runs from his 16 overs.

The round two got off to a kick start when Tendulkar smashed Warne for a boundary early on but the wily bowler altered the length, Tendulkar looking to cut, got an edge with skipper Mark Taylor snapping him at slip. India had scored 257 in their first innings and Australia got 328.

There were tense moments in the Indian dressing room and coach Anshuman Gaekwad said that one of the batters will have to wipe out the deficit himself. The coach had not finished speaking when Tendulkar interrupted, promising to do the job for his team.

Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rahul Dravid gave him a good platform and on this day, in 1998, the master walked out to bat with the score 115 for 2. Warne had now shifted to the ploy of bowling round the wicket, his objective being targeting the rough outside Tendulkar’s leg-stump. But the batsman was prepared and he batted with a slightly more open space.

Then began an onslaught and Chennai crowd were up for a treat. Tendulkar did not spare any bowler and was particularly severe on Warne. There were scorching drives, cuts, sweeps and pulls, with and against the turn. Tendulkar not only kept his promise but also batted Australia out of the game.

His 155 came at a strike-rate of over 81, something unheard in those days and that too in a Test. He was well supported by a steady knock from Dravid and later captain Mohammad Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly with breezy displays. India declared at 418 for 4 on the very day itself.

India set them a target of 348. Co-incidentally, that was the same target set by the Australians in the same venue, 12 years prior to this, in the famous Chennai tied Test. However, it did not get that close this time. The Indian spin contingent led by the very able Anil Kumble bowled India to 179 run victory. A victory, considered one of India’s finest. India sealed the series with another win in Kolkata and the final score line was 2-1.

Brief scores:

India 257 (Nayan Mongia 58, Navjot Singh Sidhu 62, Rahul Dravid 52; Shane Warne 4 for 85, Gavin Robertson 4 for 72) & 418 for 4 decl. (Navjot Singh Sidhu 64, Rahul Dravid 56, Sachin Tendulkar 155 not out, Mohammad Azharuddin 64) bt Australia 328 (Mark Waugh 66, Ian Healey 90, Gavin Robertson 57; Anil Kumble 4 for 103, V Raju 3 for 54) and 168 (Shane Warne 35; Anil Kumble 4 for 46, Venkatpathy Raju 3 for 31) by 179 runs.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)