This was a sensational match, not only for Australia's astonishing collapse in the second innings against an Indian attack that was badly handicapped by injuries. India had come near to forfeiting the match on the previous day when their captain, Gavaskar, so sharply disagreed with an lbw decision against himself that he wanted to call off the contest. The incident took place in India's second innings, at the end of an opening partnership of 165 between Gavaskar and Chauhan. When Gavaskar was given out by umpire Whitehead, he first indicated that he had edged the ball on to his pad, and then, as he walked past Chauhan he urged him to leave the field with him. Fortunately the manager of the Indian team, Wing Commander S. K. Durrani, intervened, meeting the in-coming pair at the gate and ordering Chauhan to continue his innings.
With this controversial dismissal of Gavaskar, Lillee put himself level with Richie Benaud as Australia's highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, and he surpassed Benaud's record of 248 wickets a quarter of an hour later when Chauhan square-cut him to cover point.
The quality of pitches at the MCG had been a matter of criticism all season, with Greg Chappell leading the protest. On this occasion he elected to field, his decision being influenced by the extra grass the groundsman had left in the hope that it would hold the pitch together. The move was initially rewarding, Lillee and Pascoe seizing India's first six wickets for 115 runs, but the Indians were kept in the fight by Viswanath, who, coming in at 22 for two with the innings only eleven overs old, was ninth out four and a half hours later, having made 114 in his most accomplished manner. Patil supported him in a fourth-wicket stand of 48 in as many minutes, whereafter Kirmani, 25 in 85 minutes, and Yadav kept him company. Yadav, who resisted for 79 minutes, was struck on a toe by a yorker from Pascoe and sustained a fracture. Despite this, after taking a pain-killing injection he bowled throughout Australia's first innings. His fellow spinner, Doshi, although he did not know it at the time, toiled under a similar handicap, having been struck on the instep in the match against Victoria.
Australia also made a bad start, losing Dyson and Wood for 32 and Hughes at 81 before finding stability from a fourth-wicket partnership of 108 between Chappell and Border. Even on the second day, the pitch had lost most of what pace it had had, Chappell, who made 76, and Border, who was unbeaten that night with 95, having to graft for their runs. Batting until halfway through the third afternoon, Australia totalled 419. Border, staying just over another hour in the morning, made 124 off 265 balls, hitting twelve 4s and putting on 131 for the fifth wicket with Walters, who batted with much care for almost three and a half hours to score 78. Walters was sixth out at 356, but Australia continued to prosper through a fine innings by Marsh, who was partnered for 77 minutes by Lillee.
By the end of the third day, Gavaskar and Chauhan had reduced Australia's lead of 182 by 108, and on the fourth they added another 57 in 85 minutes before Gavaskar's contentious dismissal and dramatic walk-out. The incident disturbed the concentration of Chauhan, who, after batting in an agitated manner for another 8 runs, also succumbed to Lillee. With Vengsarkar, Man of the Match Viswanath and Patil helping towards rebuilding the innings, India at one stage were 296 for six, but the lower order surrendered quickly.
When Australia batted again, with just over an hour left to the end of the fourth day, they needed 143 to win and India were without the bowling of Kapil Dev, who had strained a thigh muscle, and Yadav, whose injury had worsened from his efforts in the first innings. Doshi, too, was in great distress, but soldiered on. Nevertheless, the weakened attack made major inroads before the day was out, with Dyson, Wood and Chappell (out first ball, bowled behind his legs) all back in the dressing-room and only 24 runs on the board.
Kapil Dev, who had batted with a runner and had not appeared on the field on the previous day, joined the fray on the final morning and bowled unchanged to take five of the seven remaining Australian wickets that fell in just over two and a quarter hours. Following Lillee's lead, Kapil Dev bowled straight and to a length and let the pitch do the rest. The ball repeatedly kept low, but the Australians, as Chappell said afterwards, were lacking in the areas of application and determination.