February 26, 2001

India one up at the Wankhede stadium

In the second and final part of the series on India-Australia Tests at Bombay, the author looks back on the two games played at the Wankhede stadium. This is part of CricInfo's build up to the Test series, commencing on February 27.

India and Australia came to the Wankhede stadium in 1979-80 for the last game of the six Test series. Against an emaciated Aussie squad, weakened considerably because of the non availability of the Packer players, India always had the upper hand and came to Bombay having taken a 1-0 lead in the series. And at the western metropolis, everything went India's way.

First, Sunil Gavaskar won the toss on a good batting track and then he and Chetan Chauhan proceeded to put on 192 runs for the first wicket. Gavaskar went on to score 123, his 22nd Test century while Chauhan got 73. A middle order collapse was offset by the batting of Syed Kirmani and Karsan Ghavri. The wicketkeeper went on to become only the third nightwatchman in Test cricket to get a hundred. He finished with 101 not out and with Ghavri (86) added 127 runs for the eighth wicket. Gavaskar was able to declare at 458 for eight late on the second day and then a dispirited Australian team caved in meekly. Only Graham Yallop, opening the innings, showed some defiance in the first innings, getting 60. But the others crumbled before the spin attack of Dilip Doshi (5 for 43) and Shivlal Yadav (4 for 40).

Following on 298 runs behind, Australia's fight in the second innings was confined to a third wicket stand of 132 runs between Allan Border (61) and skipper Kim Hughes (80). But the rest of the batting came to grief against Kapil Dev (4 for 39) and Doshi (3 for 60) and they were all out for 198 on the fourth evening. The victory by an innings and 100 runs gave India the rubber against Australia for the first time. A casualty on the final day of the series was Rick Darling. The middle order batsman had not yet opened his account when he was hit on the head while trying to hook a bouncer from Kapil Dev and had to be carried off the field.

Seven years later, the teams came to Bombay for the final game of a three Test series with everything to play for. Tied Test II at Madras was followed by a drawn second Test at New Delhi, which was badly affected by rain. But there was never any chance of a result on the placid Wankhede stadium track. Australia, very much the underdogs as they were in the process of rebuilding following the retirement of several stalwarts, led off with 345 with Geoff Marsh top scoring with 101.

India batted for almost two days in replying with 517 for five declared. Gavaskar scored 103, his 33rd Test century. Ironically enough, he made it at a time when the Bombay Cricket Association held a function to present him with a memento on getting 32 hundreds. Coming together at 219 for five, Dilip Vengsarkar, then in the midst of a Bradmanesque run and Ravi Shastri did pretty much what they liked with the innocuous Australian attack to add 298 runs for the sixth wicket and were still going strong when Kapil Dev declared on the fourth evening. The partnership, which lasted 388 minutes, remains the Indian record for the sixth wicket against all countries. Vengsarkar got 164 and Shastri 121. In the course of the innings, Vengsarkar completed 1,000 runs against Australia while Shastri became the first Indian to hit six sixes in a Test innings.

Despite being 172 runs in arrears, the Australians were never in any danger of defeat with the pitch remaining placid even on the final afternoon and an unbroken third wicket stand of 146 runs between Border (66) and Dean Jones (73) steered the visitors to a closing score of 216 for two. The fact that 1,078 runs were scored at an average of 63.41 per wicket best illustrates the dominance of bat over ball.