Against everyone’s expectations, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2017 has not been one-sided in the favour of the hosts, India. Steven Smith and his boys so far have been neck to neck with the Indian team and have managed to lock the series 1-1 after three Tests. The deciding match is scheduled to be played in Dharamsala from March 25. The series has witnessed more than an excellent brand of cricket. From the ‘shoulder-gate, Smith’s ‘Brain fade’ moment to Australian media comparing Virat Kohli to Donald Trump, outside the field, it has been one hell of a series.
It all began in Pune; by winning the opening Test, the visitors sent out a message loud and clear that they mean business and it will be a task for the Indians to beat them. The second Test was a roller-coaster match where both the teams had their moments of domination before Virat Kohli’s men took away the game and levelled series 1-1.
The fine game of cricket was awaited in Ranchi’s all-new stadium, JSCA International Stadium. It was for the first time India and Australia played all five days in the ongoing series. After Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha’s marathon innings helped India go beyond 600, they declared with a lead of 152. Australia had more than a day to bat and by stumps on Day 4, they lost David Warner and Nathan Lyon. It is always difficult to bat on the final day of a Test and it was anticipated that the Indian bowling attack would bundle out the Australians under 150 to win the match by an innings.
However, little did they know Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb had different plans. While Marsh batted more than a session, faced 197, Handscomb remained unbeaten on 72 and helped Australia bat out and end the third Test in a draw. That meant the climax of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2017 will be scripted in one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world – HPCA Stadium. The excitement is already underway as both Australia and India have hinted surprise inclusions in the crucial match.
Prior to the electric decider Dharamsala Test, let’s recollect Australia’s five incredible decider Tests:
Australia vs India— Sydney 2004:
The four-Test series commenced with a draw in the opening match in Brisbane. That was followed by yet another Dravid-Laxman heroic partnership that put India 1-0 with a sweet win by four wickets at Adelaide. The hosts struck back by triumphing in the Boxing Day Test when they thrashed Team India by nine wickets. The final and the deciding match of the series was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
India won the toss and skipper Sourav Ganguly made the right decision of sending back the Australians in the field, less than 72 hours after the previous game. Although Australia’s fancy fast bowlers Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie, picked wickets, they were thrashed left, right and centre by the hosts. While Lee ended with figures of 201 for 4, Gillespie had 3 for 135 to his name. They became the victims of Sachin Tendulkar and VVX Laxman, who together played 734 balls. Tendulkar remained not out for 241 runs and Laxman was dismissed for 178 runs.
In reply to India’s 705, Australia were bundled out for 474. Ganguly was criticised for not enforcing follow-on but his decision eventually gave the world, one of the best Test matches. Indian scored other 200-odd runs and set a target of 443 runs for the hosts to chase down with a little more than a day left. The likes of Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, and Simon Katich ensured Australia batted out and the tremendous deciding Test ended in a draw. The drawn Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2004 meant the defending champions India retained the trophy.
England vs Australia—Oval, 2005:
The 2005 Ashes is one of the best editions of the bilateral series between Australia and England. Since England had a fantastic cricketing season in the previous year, they were hopeful of giving the Urn holders, Australia, a tough fight in the Ashes. Meanwhile, when Australia who had not lost the Ashes in the last 18 years, began the 2005 Ashes with a thumping victory of 239 runs at the Lord’s, there were no surprises.
The bilateral series turned interesting when the hosts came back with a close victory by two runs in the second Test at Birmingham. The English side, fighting against the odds, managed to keep the series levelled 1-1 as the third Test ended in a draw. The penultimate match at Trent Bridge was another cracker of a match between the arch rivals. On Day 4, England had to chase down 129 to win the match. After a dramatic day, where England lost seven wickets, the match ended giving England a 2-1 lead with the deciding Test a few days away.
Andrew Strauss’ century in the first innings helped England pile up 373 runs. Even when Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden scored hundreds each, Australia fell short of a couple and gave England a lead of six runs. The hosts were dismissed for 335 runs and set a target of 342 with final few minutes left in the match. For England bowled three balls, hands were shaken and the deciding Test was declared a draw. England finally had won The Ashes at home after a wait of 20 years.
India vs Australia – Nagpur, 2008:
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2008 began with a drawn Test at Bengaluru, followed by India winning the Mohali game by a huge margin of 320 runs. The high-scoring third Test in Deli ended in a draw, leaving Australia with a final attempt to level the series. The teams next flew to Nagpur as a classic decider Test awaited them.
Tendulkar’s century boosted India beyond 400 in the first innings. In reply, the visitors managed 355 runs. With 81 runs ahead, India added another 295 runs and set Australia a target of 382 runs. The chase was never going to be easy and as expected the Ponting and Co derailed in just 50.1 overs. India won the match by 172 runs and reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after eight long years.
Australia vs England— Oval, 2009:
The maiden Test of the 2009 edition ended in a draw and it was followed by England going 1-0 up with a victory in the Lord’s Test by 115 runs. The third Test also witnessed an excellent display of Test cricket from both the countries and there was a fair result at the end – a draw. Ponting and Co made an amazing return to the series in the fourth Test at Leeds. They thrashed the hosts by an innings and 80 runs, only to amplify the intensity of the final Test at the Oval.
Batting first, England stacked up 332 runs where Ian Bell top-scored with 72 off 137 balls. It was followed by Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann running over the Australian line-up; they dismissed the tourist party cheaply for 160 runs. The follow-on was not enforced and instead, England batted again and set a massive target of 546 runs for the Australians.
Although Australia were off to a great start at 80 for no loss at stumps on Day three, they failed to carry the momentum the next day. The match ended inside four days as the Australians were bowled out for 348 runs. England reclaimed the Urn and they would go on to retain it in the next three editions of The Ashes.
South Africa vs Australia— Cape Town, 2014:
The centuries from Shaun Marsh and Steven Smith, along with brilliant bowling effort from their ace pacer, Mitchell Johnson, gave Australia a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series. The numbers testified that the Australian teams have dominated more at home than overseas and once again, they faced a setback when the hosts struck back the second Test.
The duo of AB de Villiers and JP Duminy scored a century each and immediately put South Africa in front. The best performance in the match was reserved for South Africa’s bowling department. Australia, while chasing 448 runs, were ruthlessly outplayed by the hosts. Barring the openers, Chris Rogers and David Warner, the rest of the players were dismissed for single-digit scores and South Africa levelled the series with a superb 231-run win.
The teams travelled to Cape Town for the vital deciding Test. It was the same ground where the Australians, two and a half years ago, were all out for a humiliating total of just 47 runs. However, this time the result was going to be different. Australian opener, Warner, who was in red-hot form, once again gave Australia the required start with another century. Clarke, who scored a hundred as well made an aggressive move by declaring innings at 494 for 7.
Johnson and Ryan Harris ran through the South African batting line-up to earn Australia a good lead. Eventually, South Africa were given a target of 511 runs. Just when the match was heading for a draw, Harris produced a miraculous performance that would last with the hosts forever. South Africa, eight down, needed to bat on for just 15 minutes more to draw the Test before an injured Harris bowled Steyn and Morne Morkel to ensure the magnificent series had a result – Australia lifted the trophy before wild celebrations broke on the field when the last Proteas wicket fell.