Before the pitches in Australia turned benign, banal and boring, the surfaces Down Under were best known for their brawn, bounce and bite. With two ballistic bowling attacks present in Australian as well as Indian ranks, it will be interesting to see how they perform on the modern day strip in the upcoming series. With common consensus over the current bowling attack rated as the best India has had, the series in Australia makes for an intriguing prospect.
In the lead up to what is anticipated to be a fierce Test series kicking off on 6 December in Adelaide, Firstpost picks some of the most memorable spells by Indian bowlers in Australia.
Ajit Agarkar's six for in India's first win in Australia this century
Agarkar played a crucial role as India drew first blood in a Test series Down Under in 21st century. The Adelaide Test best remembered for Rahul Dravid's epic 233 and 72* overshadowed Agarkar's contribution with the ball.
Agarkar's six wickets in second innings ensured the mighty Aussies were dismissed under 200 in the second innings which set up India a rather reasonable 230 to win. The Mumbai pacer made early inroads by first trapping opener Justin Langer leg before wicket and then removing Ricky Ponting, who had scored a double century in the first innings, to put India on top. He returned to run through Australia's lower order, taking four quick wickets. At 183/5, with Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich in the middle, the home side lost their way and crashed to 196 all out.
RP swings it at Perth in 2007-08
After India posted 330 in the first innings at Perth in 2008-08, RP Singh, made judicious use of his left-arm swing bowling along with the extra bounce available on the WACA surface to claim four wickets in the first innings helping Anil Kumble’s men take a massive 118-run lead. At the famed WACA, Singh, at first, took the ball away from Michael Hussey to induce a rare false shot from Mr Cricket. He then made use of the extra bounce to get rid of the dangerous Gilchrist and then wiped out the tail quickly. Singh's precise lines and swing saw the batsmen falter as they kept edging to wicket-keeper MS Dhoni. He followed that up with two wickets in the second essay and fittingly took the final wicket as India registered a memorable 72-run win at Perth.
That Ishant Sharma spell to Ricky Ponting at WACA in 2007-08
To witness a genuine fast bowler deliver a venomous spell in full rhythm is a sight to behold but to see an Indian fast bowler steaming in and tormenting the best in the world is unheard of. In his 12th year as an international cricketer, to many 'that spell to Ponting' still defines Ishant Sharma. The tall, young and lanky bowler made Ponting jump around in a hostile spell, before overpowering then Australian captain into submission. Ishant ended up with 3 wickets in the match and scalped Ponting in both the innings. Ponting later went on to say, "He's (Ishant) a little bit different in the fact that he probably brings the ball back into right-handers more than most right-arm bowlers we have faced. Normally as a right-handed batsman you usually only get the ball coming back in from left-armers. He's tall, he hits the deck pretty hard and he gets a little bit of inconsistent bounce off the wicket.
"He's looked dangerous. With the angles he creates he can be pretty dangerous against the left-handers as well and he swings the ball away from them, a bit like Ntini does."
Jumbo's big haul brought India to the brink of historic series win in 2003-04
India had conceded a 1-0 lead in the third Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2003-04, but at the spin-friendly Sydney Cricket Ground the tourists fancied their chances. In Steve Waugh’s farewell Test, India were on course to win their first series Down Under. Riding on Sachin Tendulkar's 241* India posted a massive 705 in the first innings. In reply, Kumble had the Aussie batsmen tied in knots as he went on claim eight wickets in the first innings. The legspinner potent spell of 8/141 handed India a huge 231-run lead. Despite Kumble's four-for in the second innings, a defiant Steve Waugh’s 80 and Simon Katich’s 77 made sure Australia escaped with a draw on the final day of the New Year's Test. Skipper Ganguly gushed about Kumble's 12-wicket haul in the Test but rued the fact that the spinner lacked the support from the other end.
Half-fit Kapil Dev's bravado steers India to a win at 'THE G'
The 2007-08 tour of Australia was not the first tour that had witnessed some downright poor umpiring that hurt the Indians. India's 1981 tour Down Under too saw some shambolic decisions that went against India. If Shahid Durrani, then India's manager, is to be believed he had cited seven decisions made by rookie umpire Rex Whitehead which had gone against India. (See Gavaskar threatening to walk off the field after Whitehead's decision)
Australia took a healthy 182-run lead in the first innings, though India's top-order showcased a better performance in the second innings, but were only able to set a relatively modest 143 to win. But the legendary Kapil Dev, who was suffering from a groin strain, led the way and bagged a magnificent 5 for 28 to bowl Australia out for a paltry 83, sealing the victory by 59 runs. The series ended in 1-1 draw.
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Ishant Sharma attributed his remarkable longevity in the game to understanding what the "captain wants from him" than the other way round as he finds himself on the cusp of becoming only the second Indian pacer after Kapil Dev to play 100 Tests.
It is learnt that the Indian team management wants to play to its strength and there could be a turner on offer with Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel ready to exploit the conditions to the fullest.
Ravichandran Ashwin got past Harbhajan Singh, who took 265 wickets at an average of 28.76, by dismissing Ben Stokes on Day 2 of the second Test.