Sri Lanka have never won a Test in Australia. Pakistan have won four, but their last victory in Australian soil came when Babar Azam was a year old, i.e. in 1995, a two-and-half decade back. Since then, Pakistan have lost all their 14 Tests they played Down Under.
Australia is a difficult place to tour. But India have the best record among all subcontinent teams that toured Australia. In fact, against Australia, India’s overall win-loss ratio of 0.67 is only next to England’s 0.75.
Trivia: India have played 98 Tests against Australia. The second Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy this season at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) will also mark the 100th Test between the two sides. The Boxing Day Test will also mark India’s 50th Test in the Australian soil.
India toured Australia as an independent nation in the 1947-48 season. They played their first-ever Test Down Under at The Gabba. It took them thirty years and a weakened Australian side due to Kerry Packer to notch up their first win in Australia. Close to four-and-half decades later, India can boast of seven wins in Australia (which very well could have been 11 had the Sydney Tests of 2004 and 2008 gone their way. And not to forget 2014 Adelaide and 1978 Perth). Seven out of 48 may not look handsome. However, considering Australia’s dominance in the sport and India’s tag of being poor travellers, Indian fans can afford to smile as their side is the only one from the subcontinent to have won a Test series in Australia.
Ahead of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020-21 that starts on Thursday (December 17), let’s reflect on India’s seven Test wins in Australia soil.
MCG, Melbourne, Dec-Jan 1977-78
Bob Simpson had last played a Test in 1968. Well into his retirement, Simmo was forced to make a comeback at almost 42 to lead Australia. It’s a story for the folklore that he smashed three tons in the series. Simmo’s forced return was due to Australia losing their stars to Packer series.
More often than not, the Australian media have been the side’s 12th man. This tour was no exception. The press targeted India’s poor overseas record. The Bishan Bedi-led Indian unit did no good to their reputation by losing the first two Tests of the series.
Electing to bat at MCG, both the openers fell without scoring. A century-stand from Mohinder Amarnath and Gundappa Viswanath stabilised the Indian innings. Useful middle-order contributions helped India to 256 before Bhagwath Chandrasekhar picked a six-for to ensure a 43-run lead.
Sunil Gavaskar followed his first-innings duck with a century – his third of the series. Another good show from the middle-order ensured India set up a target of 387. The pitch that started off being pace-friendly behaved unevenly and yielded spin. Bedi combined with Chandra to bowl India to a 222-run victory – their first in Australian soil. It had taken 30 years and 12 Tests.
Chandra’s 12 for 104 (6 for 52 in both innings) remained his best career figures in a Test.
India 256 (Mohinder Amarnath 72, Gundappa Viswanath 59, Ashok Mankad 44; Jeff Thomson 3 for 78, Wayne Clark 4 for 73) & 343 (Sunil Gavaskar 118, Gundappa Viswanath 54, Mohinder Amarnath 41; Wayne Clark 4 for 96) beat Australia 213 (Gary Cosier 67, Craig Serjeant 85, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar 6 for 52) & 164 (Bishan Bedi 4 for 58, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar 6 for 52) by 222 runs
SCG, Sydney, January 1978
Simmo wanted to bowl first on the damp surface but the fear of batting last, like in MCG, forced him to bat. But it wasn’t the pacers who did the damage. Bedi and Chandra continued from where they left at Melbourne. Australia were bowled out for 131 under four hours with Bedi and Chandra sharing seven wickets between them.
Aided by poor catching, India declared their innings at 396 on Day Three. Australia batted better in the second innings, but it was too much of an ask to save the Test. The guile of their third spinner – Erapalli Prasanna – took centre stage this time. He picked a four-for to help India to win by an innings. The series was now tied 2-2.
This remains India’s only innings defeat win in Australia. The final Test of the series at Perth saw a pulsating finish as Australia clinched it by two wickets. India had to wait for another 41 years to win a series Down Under.
Australia 131 (Bob Simpson 38; Bishan Bedi 3 for 49, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar 4 for 30) & 263 (Gary Cosier 68, Peter Toohey 85; Erapalli Prasanna 4 for 51) lost to India 396-8 dec. (Sunul Gavaskar 49, Chetan Chauhan 42, Gundappa Vishwanath 79, Dilip Vengsarkar 48, Syed Kirmani 42, Karsan Ghavri 64; Jeff Thomson 4 for 83) by an innings & 2 runs
MCG, Melbourne, February 1981
From India almost forfeiting the Test on Day Four to pulling off one of their greatest wins a day later, this was an eventful Test marred by controversies and filled with inspirational individual shows.
Australian captain Greg Chappell had been vocal against the MCG pitches that season. The extra grass on the surface prompted him to bowl first. India were 115 for six, struggling against the quality of Dennis Lillee and Len Pascoe. Viswanath stood amid the ruins, crafting an alluring 114 in the team’s total of 237.
Allan Border’s hundred put Australia in a commanding position with a lead of 182 runs. Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan batted brilliantly to add 165 for the first wicket before the former was adjudged leg-before to Lillee, who picked his 248th Test wicket to equal Richie Benaud as Australia’s most prolific wicket-taker. The contentious decision led an angry Gavaskar, the then Indian captain, to stage a walkout with Chauhan. The manager of the Indian team, Wing Commander Shahid Durrani, intervened. Meeting the opening duo at the gate, he ordered Chauhan to continue.
India’s lower middle-order collapsed and could only set 143 for a target. Indian bowling armoury was coping with a triple injury blow. Kapil Dev was nursing a pulled thigh, which prevented him from taking the field on the fourth evening. Braving a fractured toe, Dilip Doshi opened the bowling with Karsan Ghavri. Shivlal Yadav did not bat and take the field at all.
India were off to an encouraging start courtesy Ghavri. John Dyson was caught behind with 11 on the board before he cleaned-up Chappell on the first ball around his legs. On the fifth morning, Kapil returned to the filed with the help of painkillers. He defied the injury and bowled his heart out to script a win from nowhere. Kapil picked five. Australia were bowled out for 83, and the series levelled 1-1.
India 237 (Gundappa Viswanath 114, Dennis Lillee 4 for 65, Len Pascoe 3 for 29) and 324 (Sunil Gavaskar 70, Chetan Chauhan 85, Dilip Vengsarkar 41, Dennis Lillee 4 for 104) beat Australia 419 (Greg Chappell 76, Allan Border 124, Doug Walters 78, Rod Marsh 45, Dilip Doshi 3 for 109) and 83 (Kapil Dev 5 for 28) by 59 runs
Player of the Match: Viswanath
Adelaide, December 2003
The 1999-00 tour was disastrous where Sachin Tendulkar’s men were demolished 3-0. Sourav Ganguly took charge soon, and things were gradually changing for the better in Indian cricket. Earlier in 2003, Australia had beaten India in the World Cup Final. Australia were in their dominant phase, and if there was one side that was going to test Australia, it was India. Having won the Border-Gavaskar trophy at home, the onus was on Australia to snatch it from them.
The first Test in Brisbane was evenly contested thanks to Ganguly’s counterattacking yet glamorous 144 and Zaheer’s five-for. This set the tone for the Indians in the series.
Steve Waugh elected to bat on a placid surface in Adelaide. Rising on Ricky Ponting’s 242, Australia piled up 556. On Day Two, they had India on the mat at 85 for four before the familiar pair of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman tormenting them. Taking a leaf out of the Eden Special of 2001, the duo added 303 runs for the fifth wicket. On Day Four, Dravid got to his double hundred and India were bowled out for 523.
Had 1999-00 been the age of social media, Ajit Agarkar would have no place to hide. His five ducks made more headlines than his 11 wickets. He didn’t make big in Test cricket, but two shows would go on to define his career. The first one came a year-and-half back at Lord’s where he slammed a ton and then this. The Mumbai pacer picked a six-for (his only five-wicket haul in a 26-Test career) to bundle out Australia for 196. In a tensed final day, Dravid kept his composure to guide India to a remarkable victory. Quite fittingly, it was Agarkar at the non-striker.
It was India’s first win on Australian soil since February 1981.
Australia 556 (Justin Langer 56, Ricky Ponting 242, Simon Katich 75, Jason Gillespie 48*; Anil Kumble 5 for 154) & 196 (Steve Waugh 42, Adam Gilchrist 43; Ajit Agarkar 6 for 41) lost to India 523 (Virender Sehwag 47, Rahul Dravid 233, VVS Laxman 148; Andy Bichel 4 for 118) & 233 for 6 (Virender Sehwag 47, Rahul Dravid 72*) by 4 wickets
Player of the Match: Dravid
WACA, Perth, January 2008
Indian fans felt they were robbed off a win in Sydney. Had umpire been fair, the scoreline could have read 1-1 instead of 2-0 in favour of Australia. The controversial Test that was marred by contentious umpiring and the Monkeygate scandal. Harbhajan Singh was accused of racism and handed a suspension. The aftermath threatened the diplomatic ties between the two nations.
The teams moved to WACA, Perth, a surface known to be a pacer’s paradise. Australians had included Shaun Tait to their squad, and the speedster was expected to steamroll the visitors. Australia had equalled their world record of 16 Test victories after Sydney. Like in Eden Gardens in 2001, India would break it again.
Anil Kumble elected to bat. The trusted pair of Dravid and Tendulkar guided India to 330. The Indian bowlers led by RP Singh bowled the visitors to a 118-run lead. VVS Laxman top-scored with 79 in the second innings to set up a target of 413 for the Australians. The Tait-threat was nullified by Indian batters as he picked up figures of 92 for no wickets in his 21 overs.
A stiff target, no doubt, but if one team was capable of pulling it off, it was Ponting’s Australia. The second innings of Australia will be forever remembered for the spell a teenaged Ishant Sharma bowled to Ponting, eventually claiming the maestro’s wicket. The Test saw Kumble picking up his 600th Test wicket. Irfan Pathan, who got 46 with the bat, claimed three scalps.
India 330 (Rahul Dravid 93, Sachin Tendulkar 71; Brett Lee 3 for 71, Mitchell Johnson 4 for 86) & 294 (Virender Sehwag 43, Irfan Pathan 46, VVS Laxman 79; Brett Lee 3 for 54, Stuart Clark 4 for 61) beat Australia 212 (Andrew Symonds 66, Adam Gilchrist 55; RP Singh 4 for 68) & 340 (Ricky Ponting 45, Michael Hussey 46, Michael Clarke 81, Mitchell Johnson 50*; Irfan Pathan 3 for 54) by 72 runs
Player of the Match: Irfan Pathan
Adelaide, December 2018
For many years, Cheteshwar Pujara was thought to be the ideal successor for Dravid at No.3. Pujara’s appetite for runs remained unquestioned, but was he as prolific as Dravid away from home? This was the series that made Pujara. Like his predecessor, he chose Adelaide to reserve his best.
In 2011-12, India were whitewashed Down Under 4-0. Three years later, Virat Kohli plundered runs at will, but the result still went in 2-0 in Australia’s favour. With Steve Smith and David Warner serving bans, 2018-19 was India’s best chance.
India toured Australia as the No.1 Test side in the world. The Australian bowling tested visitors, who chose to bat. Kohli was done by a stunner at slips from Khawaja. Pujara’s 123 steadied the ship as India got 250. The Jasprit Bumrah-led Indian bowling attack squeezed out a 15-run lead. The Indian middle-order came good in the second innings with Pujara once again proving his mettle by top-scoring with 71.
India had reduced Australia to 187 for seven before their tail came to haunt the hosts. It was Ravichandran Ashwin who provided the relief moment by dismissing Josh Hazlewood, who had stitched 32 for the final wicket with Nathan Lyon. India were one up in the series.
India 250 (Cheteshwar Pujara 123; Josh Hazlewood 3 for 52) & 307 (KL Rahul 44, Cheteshwar Pujara 71, Ajinkya Rahane 70; Mitchell Starc 3 for 40, Nathan Lyon 6 for 122) beat Australia 235 (Travis Head 72; Jasprit Bumrah 3 for 47, Ravichandran Ashwin 3 for 57) & 291 (Shaun Marsh 60, Tim Paine 41, Nathan Lyon 38*; Jasprit Bumrah 3 for 68, Ravichandran Ashwin 3 for 92, Mohammed Shami 3 for 65) by 31 runs
Player of the Match: Pujara
MCG, Melbourne, December 2018
India conceded the Adelaide advantage by succumbing to a defeat at Perth. The continued failures from openers led to the dropping of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay. Mayank Agarwal was finally handed the Test cap, and Hanuma Vihari was asked to partner him.
Electing to bat in the Boxing Day Test, Indian openers saw through the testing period. Pujara scored another century, and he was ably supported by Agarwal (76) and Kohli (83). Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant added 86 for the sixth wicket as India declared at 443 after almost batting for two days.
Bumrah picked a six-for, blowing apart the Australian batting for 151. Not asking Australia to follow-on, India had a terrible outing in the second innings with Pujara and Kohli failing to score. India declared at 106 for eight.
On a tricky surface, Australia had the daunting task to chase down 399. Despite their improved show and some rain scare, they fell short by 137 runs.
India would go on to dominate the Sydney Test where rains played a spoiler. With 2-1 scoreline, India would go on to win their first-ever Test series in Australia.
India 443 for 7 dec. (Mayank Agarwal 76, Cheteshwar Pujara 106, Virat Kohli 82, Rohit Sharma 63*, Rishabh Pant 39; Pat Cummins 3 for 72) & 106 for 8 dec. (Mayank Agarwal 42; Pat Cummins 6 for 22) beat Australia 151 (Jasprit Bumrah 6 for 33) & 261 (Shaun Marsh 44, Pat Cummins 63; Jasprit Bumrah 3-53, Ravindra Jadeja 3-82) by 137 runs
Player of the Match: Bumrah