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India seals first-ever Test series win over Australia

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Last updated on 07 Nov 2023 | 10:43 AM
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India seals first-ever Test series win over Australia

Though the Indian cricket team had first played Australia in 1947, it wasn’t until 1979 that they finally managed to win a Test series against them

Though the Indian cricket team had first played Australia in 1947, it wasn’t until 1979 that they finally managed to win a Test series against them. It was under the captaincy of Sunil Gavaskar that the team went on to win their first-ever series against Australia by a margin of 2-0.

Having drawn the first two Tests, the Indian team displayed a gritty performance in the third match held in Kanpur. Batting first, India’s top-order of Gavaskar, Chetan Chauhan, Dilip Vengsarkar and Gundappa Viswanath batted well to put up a score of 271 runs in the first innings. 

Although Australia managed to take a 33-run lead, courtesy of impact knocks by captain Kim Hughes (50), Graham Yallop (89) and Rick Darling (59), the hosts rode on brilliant innings from Chauhan (84), Visawanth (52) and Syed Kirmani (45) to hand Australia a target of 278. While the target was gettable, four-wicket hauls by Kapil Dev and Shivlal Yadav saw India wrap up the visitors for 125 to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

While the visitors on the India tour boasted of names like Kim Hughes, Allan Border and Dav Whatmore, the underperforming Aussies faced all sorts of problems. The 1978-79 summer had seen them losing the Ashes 5-1 before drawing a Test series 1-1 with Pakistan. It was followed by a poor World Cup campaign, where Australia were eliminated from the group stages itself.

The team picked for the Indian tour had numerous inexperienced names, with ten of them never toured previously. The experienced likes of Jeff Moss, Trevor Laughlin and Gary Cosier were given rest after the World Cup, while Peter Toohey and John Inverarity weren’t even considered. Most of the big names competing in the World Series Cricket weren’t sent to India as well.

As if this wasn’t enough, the Australian team reached India 22 hours late after their plane’s engine blew one hour from Singapore. The visitors had to play India’s North Zone cricket team in Srinagar, Kashmir, amidst threats from the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front to kill the Australians.

The optimism in the Australian camp, regardless of everything going against them, was inspiring, and they approached the first Test on the back of consecutive draws against the North and South zone. Between the third and fourth Test, with Australia trailing 1-0, the visitors played West Zone and drew that as well.

Hence, when Australia finally approached the sixth and final Test of the tour at Wankhede with the series at stake, having lost one and drawing seven of the last eight Test matches they had played in India, their confidence was well and truly shattered.

Batting first, India would put up a total of 458 runs, with Gavaskar and Syed Kirmani scoring centuries and Chauhan (73) and Karsan Ghavri (86) making significant contributions. Interestingly, after India was reduced to 240/4 on Day 1, Kirmani was sent to bat as a nightwatchman, and the wicketkeeper would go on to score a century. It was only the third time in cricket history that a nightwatchman got a Test ton. 

Australia would succumb to India’s lethal bowling attack of Kapil Dev and Shivlal Yadav, who took five and four wickets, respectively, to wrap the visitors for 160 runs and enforce a follow-on. The match ended on Day 4, November 7, with Kapil Dev with a four-fer and series debutant Dilip Doshi taking a three-wicket haul to help India win the match by an innings and 100 runs.

While the Australian side returned home winless, their biggest take was the experience gained by skipper Hughes and Allan Border, the latter of whom would go on to become an Australian legend.  

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