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The eleventh Test series between Australia and India earned its place in posterity when the first of the three matches, at the Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk in Madras concluded excitingly in the second tie in Test cricket. It had taken almost 84 years and 498 Tests to produce the first tie, between Australia and West Indies at Brisbane in December 1960; the second came only 26 years later, but there have been so many Test matches of late that this was the 554th Test since that first historic finish at the 'Gabba.
The second tie was born of a quite different dramatic structure from the first, the prospect of a thrilling finish not being sprung on the crowd until the final day. At the 'Gabba, the teams had been evenly balanced and the scores suggest an intense drama which developed over the five days. At Chepauk, India were outplayed on the first three days and only just managed to avoid the follow-on before coming back strongly to level the scores. Allan Border's declaration at the overnight score had left India a target of 348 at exactly 4 runs an over on a wicket that remained hard. It was a practical rather than a sporting declaration, and the climax was shaped by India's bold bid to snatch victory in the limited-overs manner of a charge launched on the foundation provided by the first three men.
Apart from the fascination of such a rare result in five-day cricket, there was little of note in the series. A number of young Australian players seemed to benefit from the experience of playing in India, in particular Dean Jones, whose talents revealed a batsman of high class. That he possessed a temperament and the courage for Test cricket became apparent during his double-hundred in the First Test, in which David Boon and Border also scored hundreds. Boon and Geoff Marsh were efficient opening batsmen, while Greg Matthews thrived on the call to bowl long spells. An average of 29.07 is a reflection not so much of his ability as an off-spin bowler as of the slow easy-paced pitches which flattered the batsmen and deflated all the bowlers. These were the primary culprits in a series which produced little positive cricket in terms of attaining a victory, although the weather did not help by washing out the first three days of the Second Test. In the Third, all Australia sought was an honourable draw and this was achieved.
Kapil Dev went without a wicket in a series for the first time, and this certainly dented India's ambition of sustaining the winning vein struck several months earlier in England. Border, on the other hand, had cause to feel satisfied with the way the tour panned out for his young and inexperienced side, even though there was no escaping the conclusion that his side were still heavily reliant on him when they were under pressure. Neither captain, however, should have drawn any satisfaction from a series which saw relations on the field deteriorate from day to day. There were far too many incidents of gamesmanship, with the Indians reacting to the pattern of behaviour set by the visitors.
India won the limited-overs internationals 3-2, making sure of the series by winning successively at Delhi and Ahmedabad after the third match had been stopped by rain. Restricted to a low total in the Ahmedabad game, they struck back with a bowling and fielding performance reminiscent of that which had achieved many limited-overs triumphs. As many as eighteen umpires officiated in the three Tests and six one-day internationals, but the Australians' early misgivings over the standard of umpiring proved groundless. It was good to hear Border sing the Indian umpires' praises before embarking on the homeward journey and the Ashes series for which this tour was the preparation.
Test matches - Played 3: Tied 1, Drawn 2.
First-class matches - Played 7: Tied 1, Drawn 6.
Tie - India.
Draws - India (2), Bombay, Delhi, Indian Board President's XI, Indian Under-25 XI.
Non first-class matches - Played 6: Won 2, Lost 3, No result 1. Wins - India (2). Losses - India (3). No result - India.
Match reports for
1st ODI: India v Australia at Jaipur, Sep 7, 1986
2nd ODI: India v Australia at Srinagar, Sep 9, 1986
1st Test: India v Australia at Chennai, Sep 18-22, 1986
3rd ODI: India v Australia at Hyderabad (Deccan), Sep 24, 1986
2nd Test: India v Australia at Delhi, Sep 26-30, 1986
4th ODI: India v Australia at Delhi, Oct 2, 1986
5th ODI: India v Australia at Ahmedabad, Oct 5, 1986
6th ODI: India v Australia at Rajkot, Oct 7, 1986
3rd Test: India v Australia at Mumbai, Oct 15-19, 1986