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Feature

India vs Australia this century: one classic after the other

Dramatic, unpredictable, controversial - for over two decades now, the Border-Gavaskar trophy has been one of cricket's great rivalries

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
03-Feb-2023
Balle ballet: Harbhajan Singh's 32 wickets in the 2000-01 Border-Gavaskar Trophy is still the most taken by a bowler in any one India-Australia Test series  •  Hamish Blair/Getty Images

Balle ballet: Harbhajan Singh's 32 wickets in the 2000-01 Border-Gavaskar Trophy is still the most taken by a bowler in any one India-Australia Test series  •  Hamish Blair/Getty Images

Australia and India first played Test cricket against each other in 1947, but it's over the last two decades that the rivalry has grown into one of the dominant duels in the game. Ahead of the next instalment of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, a look back on how each series has played out since the turn of the millennium

India vs Australia 2000-01

India won 2-1
Though the two sides have had history before, this series took the rivalry up several notches and featured one of the greatest comebacks. Australia had built a formidable side - perhaps their best ever - under Steve Waugh, and their victory in the opening Test made it a record 16 wins in a row.
Despite a hat-trick by Harbhajan Singh - the first ever by an Indian bowler in the format - Test No. 17 looked all but won in Kolkata when India were made to follow on. Then came VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid. The pair batted throughout the fourth day, building a fifth-wicket stand of 376 and setting Australia 384 to get. At times the draw looked odds on, but Sachin Tendulkar blew the game open and Harbhajan secured a historic win.
What followed in Chennai was scarcely less dramatic. Matthew Hayden scored a double-century to cap a remarkable series for him, and Harbhajan took 15 wickets. India needed 155 and edged over the line by two wickets.

Australia vs India, 2003-04

series drawn 1-1
This series featured a truly epic encounter in Adelaide. Ricky Ponting's 242 had led Australia to a seemingly impregnable 556, but once again Dravid and Laxman had other ideas. This time they added 303 for the fifth wicket, Dravid going on to post 233, as India almost drew level, to make it a one-innings contest. Then Ajit Agarkar had his finest hour, taking 6 for 41 to leave a tantalising target of 230. Again it was Dravid who led the chase, an unbeaten 72 securing another place in the game's folklore.
Australia hit back in the Boxing Day Test despite Virender Sehwag's stunning 195, with another Ponting double setting up the series-levelling victory. The decider at the SCG saw India fill their boots to the tune of 705 for 7, with Tendulkar forging an unbeaten 241 and Laxman a majestic 178. Anil Kumble almost single-handedly bowled Australia out, but Justin Langer and Simon Katich hit centuries. After a second-innings dash (and another 91 not out from Dravid), Australia were set 443. They gave it a crack, led by Katich and Waugh in his final Test, before everyone ultimately shook hands and drew breath.

India vs Australia, 2004-05

Australia won 2-1
Captained by Adam Gilchrist in the absence of an injured Ponting, Australia secured one of their finest overseas series wins. Gilchrist himself was key in the opening Test, in Bangalore, with a rapid century, alongside a majestic 151 on debut by Michael Clarke. A three-pronged pace attack, supplemented by Shane Warne, then worked through India's batting with efficiency and precision.
The second Test, in Chennai was a ding-dong battle until a final-day washout denied a gripping finish. Australia had folded from 136 for 0 to 235 all out in the first innings before Sehwag cracked 155. However, Damien Martyn's century kept the visitors in the contest. At the end, everyone was left wondering about what could have been if it hadn't rained with India in pursuit of a target of 229.
There was no tight tussle in the match that decided the series: Australia steamrolled India in a 342-run win in Nagpur. Martyn had one of his finest Tests, with 114 and 97, while Clarke made 91. Jason Gillespie led the way with the ball, taking nine in the match. A fit-again Ponting returned for the final Test in Mumbai, on a hugely challenging surface, where India nicked a thrilling win, defending just 107 after Clarke had taken an extraordinary 6 for 9.

Australia vs India, 2007-08

Australia won 2-1
A series that began with a comfortable Australia win at the MCG took a controversial, ill-tempered twist in Sydney, where a racism controversy involving Harbhajan and Andrew Symonds overshadowed the match. Harbhajan was initially banned for three Tests before the ban was overturned on appeal. Symonds dominated the early stages of that game with a career-best 162 not out, having survived an edge behind on 30 that umpire Steve Bucknor did not spot. There was more umpiring controversy on the final day when Dravid was given caught behind and Clarke secured a victory in the dying moments - equalling Australia's previous 16-match winning run. The post-match conversation was fractious, with Kumble channelling talk from the days of Bodyline: "Only one team was playing in the spirit of the game." Briefly, India threatened to quit the tour.
Tempers had calmed by Perth, where Ishant Sharma rattled Ponting with a thrilling spell, and India produced a brilliant victory. Unfortunately, the series came to an underwhelming finish in Adelaide, where a flat pitch was the only winner, besides some batting averages.

India vs Australia, 2008-09

India won 2-0
Australia failed to repeat their triumph of four years earlier, the weakness of their spin attack proving telling. They showed promising signs in the opening Test, with Ponting and Mike Hussey's centuries dominating a drawn game, but India were far too good in Mohali, where the differences started to show.
Delhi was a match for the batters. Laxman enhanced his brilliant record against Australia while Gautam Gambhir also made a double century. In a bid to try and level the series, Australia gave a debut to offspinner Jason Krejza in the final Test and he collected 12 wickets, although at the eye-watering cost of 358 runs. The visitors were made to pay for a first-innings slide from 229 for 2 to 355 all out, and eventually a target of 382 proved well out of reach.

India vs Australia, 2010-11

India won 2-0
This short two-match series began with a classic in Mohali. Australia were given a strong base: Shane Watson's century and Tim Paine's 92 carried them over 400. No one passed three figures for India - Tendulkar fell lbw to Marcus North on 98 - with Mitchell Johnson taking five wickets to leave things almost all square. From 87 for 0, Australia then lost all ten wickets for 105 runs to leave a target of 216. At 124 for 8, the visitors were comfortable favourites but their arch nemesis, Laxman, found an ally in Ishant to get within 11 runs of the target. Amid late drama, Pragyan Ojha helped India scramble over the line.
The second Test, in Bengaluru saw two big first innings. Tendulkar's double-century was the dominant display as Australia fought hard to stay in touch. However, ultimately a target of 207 set early on the final day was well short of being competitive, and Cheteshwar Pujara broke the back of India's chase.

Australia vs India, 2011-12

Australia won 4-0
After a hard-fought opening game in Melbourne, it became a one-sided series with the home side far too strong, although Australia did get their first glimpse in Test cricket of a certain Virat Kohli. At the MCG, India let a strong position slip when they were 214 for 2 in reply to 333, but they then had Australia rocking at 27 for 4. A stand of 115 between Ponting and Clarke - former and current captains - got the home side back on track and in the end 292 proved well out of reach for India.
India were also overwhelmed in Sydney and Perth. At the SCG, Clarke hit an unbeaten 329 in huge stands with Ponting (134) and Hussey (150 not out) while at the WACA, David Warner made a scintillating 180 off 159 balls, including a century in a session on the first evening. Australia's four-pronged pace attack was too much for India to handle. Ponting (221), with what was his last Test century, and Clarke (210) filled their boots again in Adelaide in another comfortable win, but India's first innings included 116 from Kohli at a ground where he would continue to shine.

India vs Australia, 2012-13

India won 4-0
As the previous series had been one-sided in favour of the hosts, so was this. For Australia it would forever be known for the "Homeworkgate" saga that led to four players - Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja - being dropped for the third Test, having failed to follow team orders.
In the opening Test, Clarke's 130 had given Australia a solid base, but Kohli's century and MS Dhoni's 224 showed they were well short; R Ashwin took 12 in the match. A thrashing by an innings and 135 runs followed in Hyderabad (in which Clarke funkily declared nine down late on the first day), where Pujara made a double-century and Ashwin bagged another five.
The wheels then came off the tour, although Australia did not initially capitulate in Mohali. Warner and Ed Cowan opened with 139, a recalled Steven Smith made 92 in a sign of things to come, and Mitchell Starc flayed 99. However, M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan added 289 for the first wicket in reply, and although the bowlers did fight back, Australia could only set 133.
In a bizarre twist, the dropped Watson then returned as captain when Clarke was injured for the final Test. A bowler-dominated contest was decided by the spin of Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, with Pujara bringing the runs.

Australia vs India, 2014-15

Australia won 2-0
This series was overshadowed by the death of Phil Hughes just days before the start. It was a remarkable effort from the players, particularly the Australians, to play such exhilarating cricket in Adelaide as they did to secure victory late on the final day to honour Hughes.
There were emotionally charged hundreds for Warner (twice in the game), Clarke and Smith, alongside a magnificent captain's performance from Kohli who also scored two centuries in the match. His final-day 141 put India in with a chance of chasing 364, but the visitors slipped from 242 for 2 to 315 all out after Murali Vijay fell for 99, with Nathan Lyon claiming seven wickets.
In Brisbane, India were again competitive, although late wickets made the result appear tighter than it was. There was another hundred for Smith, but it was the runs Australia's lower order made, led by Johnson, that were vital: the last four wickets added 258 after they had been in danger of handing over a big lead.
Smith and Kohli again traded hundreds in Melbourne, where India were able to hang on for a draw thanks to their middle order, while similar scenes played out in Sydney. The series returns for Smith (769 runs at 128.16) and Kohli (692 runs at 86.50) were remarkable.

India vs Australia, 2016-17

India won 2-1
The most recent meeting in India, and one that Australia probably look back on as a missed opportunity after they took the opening Test in Pune on a surface that became increasingly challenging against spin. Steve O'Keefe had a remarkable match with figures of 12 for 70; India managed just 105 and 107. Smith (109) made one of his finest hundreds in the second innings, while Starc's first-innings 61 proved vital.
It was the second Test, in Bengaluru, that Australia missed their chance. Lyon's 8 for 50 bowled India out for 189, but a lead of 87 wasn't enough to kill the game. India battled to build a target of 188, then Ashwin got to work, picking up 6 for 41 as Australia crumbled for 112.
Ranchi produced a high-scoring draw, with centuries for Smith, Pujara, Glenn Maxwell and Wriddhiman Saha, leaving a decider in Dharamsala. Smith again scored a hundred, but a first-innings total of 300 from 144 for 1 was a disappointment. India scraped ahead with a small lead, but Australia's 137 proved no obstacle to the home side and that was the series.

Australia vs India, 2018-19

India won 2-1
A landmark moment for India. It started with a gripping victory for them in Adelaide and would likely have finished with a 3-1 scoreline if not for rain in Sydney. The opening match, where the bowlers held sway, was an outstanding contest, decided by the brilliance of Pujara. Australia's batting line-up was a patchwork affair - Warner and Smith were away serving out their bans after the Newlands ball-tampering scandal - but the lower order got them within range of a challenging target.
The home side fought back in Perth at the new Optus Stadium, on what became a devilish surface that produced edge-of-the-seat action. Australia's opening stand of 112 gave them a head start, but Kohli responded with a great century. Khawaja's gusty 72 kept India at bay despite Mohammed Shami's best efforts, and in the end India fell well short.
Crucially, though, India believed they were the better side and showed it in Melbourne. Led by Pujara, they ground their way to a strong total and Australia wilted against the skill of Jasprit Bumrah. In Sydney they batted Tim Paine's side into the ground - Pujara 193, Rishabh Pant 159 not out - and were able to enforce the follow-on when Kuldeep Yadav took five before the rain came.

Australia vs India, 2020-21

India won 2-1
This series in the middle of the Covid pandemic became an instant classic that ended with India's greatest ever victory, with which they ended Australia's formidable run at the Gabba.
In what would be Kohli's only match of the series, India were bundled out for just 36 in the opening Test, in Adelaide. In an astonishing session, India nicked everything from Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood less than 24 hours after looking in control, having earned a useful lead.
Bumrah shone at the MCG and Ajinkya Rahane, standing in as captain for Kohli, produced the defining innings with a brilliant 112. Australia should have won in Sydney but dropped vital catches on the final day as the injured duo of Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari put on an extraordinary display of resilience, aided by Pant's almost hundred and the obduracy of Pujara.
So to Brisbane for the decider. India's injury list had mounted and their bowling attack was threadbare, to put it mildly. Australia seemed in control, until they weren't. They failed to build on Marnus Labuschagne's hundred, and Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar took the opportunity to revive India's innings. Still, Australia were able to leave 328 for the final day, but when Shubman Gill and Pujara added 114 for the second wicket, it dawned on Australia that India had a chance.
Then came Pant with an audacious display in what had effectively become a one-day run chase. A thumping drive down the ground as the shadows lengthened secured a place in history. "What I've seen is unimaginable, the resolve and character the boys have shown is simply superb," coach Ravi Shastri said.
What will this rivalry provide us next?

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo