It took India 10 attempts to win a Test match against Australia, in 1959-60 – and 12 overseas Tests to win one on Australian soil. India won their first Test series in 1979-80, at home, but had to wait until 2018-19 – the last series between the sides – for their first overseas win. Here are some of India’s iconic Test wins.
The forgotten duo
The Australians of 1935-36 were leading 2-1. The Indians needed to win the last unofficial “Test”, at Madras. Despite scoring only 189 and 113, “India” still managed to win by 33 runs. Mohammad Nissar took 5/61 and 6/36 and Amar Singh 5/54 and 2/54. Amar Singh had also top-scored in the first innings with 45.
The Patel Show at Kanpur
Jasu Patel played only 7 Tests, but in one of them – at Kanpur in 1959-60 – he picked up 9/69 and 5/55. These remained the best innings and match figures for India until Narendra Hirwani (in 1987-88) and Anil Kumble (1998-99) respectively improved on them.
Patel had been recalled out of nowhere for that Test by Lala Amarnath, then Chairman of Selectors. Australia were 128/1 after bowling out India for 152. Then Patel had a switch of ends, bowled Colin McDonald with his first ball, and spun India to a famous 119-run win.
The Bombay Humdinger
India needed 254 to win what was the first of many tight matches between the sides, at Bombay in 1964-65. They were reduced to 122/6 when Tiger Pataudi and Vijay Manjrekar got together. India, 146/6 at lunch, reached 215/6 for tea before they fell in quick succession. They needed 30 with only Bhagwat Chandrasekhar to follow, but Chandu Borde and KS Indrajitsinhji held their nerve to see them through.
Overseas, at last
Despite being hit by Kerry Packer, the third-string Australian side went 2-0 up in the 1977-78 home series. India’s head-to-head on Australian soil read 0-10 at this point, but they pulled one back in Melbourne, thanks to Sunil Gavaskar’s 118 and Chandrasekhar’s 12/104. They then squared the series with an innings win at Sydney as the spinners – Chandrasekhar (6/115), Bishan Bedi (5/111), and EAS Prasanna (5/65) shared 16 wickets. These were India’s first wins on Australian soil.
India had come into the decider 0-1 down, conceded a 182-run lead, and had to defend a mere 143. Kapil and Shivlal Yadav were both injured, but Dilip Doshi braved a fractured toe to reduce Australia to 24/3 on the fourth evening. Then, after spending a night on painkillers, Kapil Dev took field to rout the Australians for 83. For the first time did India draw a series in Australia.
Chennai and Kolkata, 1997-98
The hype around the 1997-98 series had been around Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar, and Tendulkar won the duel at Chennai with an outrageous 191-ball 155 not out. Warne stuck to his strength, trying to extract turn from the rough outside the leg-stump, but Tendulkar kept dispatching them past or over mid-wicket. India won the Test by 179 runs, then the Kolkata Test by an innings.
Kolkata and Chennai, 2000-01
Australia came into the series with a world record streak of 15 consecutive wins. They stretched it to 16 in Mumbai, and enforced the follow on in Kolkata. The series seemed done and dusted – until VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) added 376 for the fifth wicket. Harbhajan (13/196) then spun India to a historic win.
The series, however, was still open. The Chennai Test turned out to be tighter despite Harbhajan’s 15/217 and Tendulkar’s 126. Australia needed to defend only 155, but they kept picking up wickets until debutant Sameer Dighe kept his calm to see India to a two-wicket win.
The Dravid-Laxman encore
It is never easy to recover from 85/4 against a total of 556, but as in Kolkata, Dravid (233) and Laxman (148) bailed India out yet again. This time they added 303. Then, on a pitch that had already produced 1,079 runs, Ajit Agarkar (6/41) produced the greatest spell of his Test career. Dravid (72*) guided India to a four-wicket win. Fittingly, Agarkar was at the other end when Dravid hit the winning runs.
History at the WACA
India’s first win at Perth came after the controversial Sydney Test that featured sub-par umpiring as well as allegations of racism on Harbhajan. The win was set up by contributions from almost everyone, especially Virender Sehwag (29, 43, 2/24), RP Singh (4/68, 30, 2/95), and Player of the Match Irfan Pathan (28, 2/63, 46, 3/54). However, the most YouTubed moment phase of the Test match was a young Ishant Sharma’s scorching spell against Ricky Ponting.
VVS at it, again
Barring the 1986 tie, the Mohali Test of 2010-11 has been the closest between the sides. Chasing 216, India were 55/4 at stumps on Day 4, then 124/8 on the final morning. But Laxman (73*), batting at 7 due to a back injury, added 81 with Ishant to bring India back into the Test. They won by one wicket.
Finally, after 72 years…
It took India over seven decades to win a Test series in Australia. The 31-run triumph at Adelaide might have been a hard-fought affair, but the 137-run win at Melbourne was truly emphatic.
The three fast bowlers – Ishant, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah – shared 48 wickets; Rishabh Pant scored 350 runs and held 20 catches; but there is little doubt that the star of the series was Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara batted almost 21 hours in the series for his 521 runs that included three centuries.