With the Australia-India limited-overs series behind us, it’s now time to shift gears and focus on the upcoming Test series, starting with a day-night Test in Adelaide on Thursday. While the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara showcased positive signs in the warm-up matches against Australia A, it was Rishabh Pant’s 73-ball 103 that was the defining impact for the visitors, a century that could hint at Pant’s return to form after a below-par IPL.
The previous editions of the Border-Gavaskar trophy have witnessed a lot of game-changing, career-defining knocks. Here, we take a look at 10 such knocks by Indian batsmen over the years:
Sunil Gavaskar 70 at Melbourne, 1981
In a series marred by umpiring errors, the third Test match between the two fiercely competitive sides was haunted by controversy amidst India’s 59-run win. Australia had won the toss and put India to bat, and a knock of 114 from Gundappa Viswanath propelled the visitors to 237. And as one would expect from a power-packed Aussie side, the hosts raced towards a total of 419, courtesy a century from Allan Border, enabling them to take a 182-run lead.
Things started smoothly for India in their second innings, with openers Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chahaun’s partnership going beyond 150. Gavaskar played the innings in his typical fashion, taking 180 balls to reach 70. During this period, Gavaskar had been incosistent at times, not being able to convert starts into big ones, despite reaching the 40s on a couple of occasions in the previous Tests (One each against England and Pakistan). So, in a way that knock of 70, despite all the issues marred by it was a refreshing outing for the Mumbaikar.
However, controversy erupted soon after, when a leg-cutter from Dennis Lille caught Gavaskar, batting on 70, plumb leg before wicket. Rex Whitehead, the umpire, raised his finger, but Gavaskar, who thought there was an edge, became furious and thus threatened to walk out with Chauhan. A bewildered Chauhan obeyed Gavaskar’s instructions, but the pair were stopped by team manager Shahid Durrani and assistant manager Bapu Nadkarni. Hence, Chetan Chauhan then resumed the innings, with Dilip Vengsarkar as the new batsman.
India went on to make 324 in that match, setting the Aussies a target of 143. In turn, it was a five-wicket haul from Kapil Dev that won India the match by 59 runs, and sealed a famous win amidst an infamous incident.
Sachin Tendulkar 241 at Sydney, 2004
There were almost no expectations when a Sourav Ganguly-led India arrived in Australia during the 2003-04 season. Coming into the fourth Test with the series level at 1-1 following the drawn first match, Sachin Tendulkar was in the midst of a lean patch of form after coming back from a Tennis Elbow injury.
He had scores of 0, 1, 37, 0 and 44 in his five innings on the tour, aggregating a total of 82 runs, and needless to say, the pressure was mounting on the Master Blaster.
The visitors won the toss and elected to bat. They started off strongly, with a 123-run stand between Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag, before the latter departed for 72. Chopra also followed suit after a slow knock of 45 from 139 balls, and in came Tendulkar at four.
And although India lost Dravid not too long after Tendulkar arrived, it was that game-changing 353-run stand between Tendulkar and VVS Laxman (178) that saved India the game later on.
Tendulkar's precise timing of shots is always evident whenever he comes out to bat, and this was no exception. Another major highlight of Tendulkar’s knock was he did not even play a single cover drive through the off-side, instead letting the ball through whenever the opposition bowlers delivered in the outside-off area.
India went on to declare at 705-7 in the first innings, and Australia replied with an innings of 474 runs. India decided not to enforce the follow-on, and declared again at 211-2, setting the Aussies a target of 443. Steve Waugh (80) and Simon Katich (77*) showcased grit and determination as the match ended in a draw, with Aussies finishing at 357-6. The two teams went on to share the trophy.
Virat Kohli 141 at Adelaide, 2014-15
The Indian Test team entered a new era during the 2014-15 series, when Virat Kohli took over as skipper in the longest format.
And for Kohli, the first Test match in Adelaide would certainly be a turning point later in his career.
The match witnessed five separate centuries across the four innings, two of which came from the bat of Kohli. With Australia winning the toss and batting first, centuries from David Warner, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith powered them to 517-7. In return, the Indian top-order looked quite promising, as Kohli’s 115 propelled them to 444. And after the Aussies declared at 290-5 in their second innings, it was Kohli’s time to shine again.
Having set a target of 363, India lost Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara in the earlier stages. Then entered Virat Kohli, who with his aggressive batting technique made the Aussie bowlers sweat again with shots all over the ground, including some juicy cover drives.
What motivated him to unleash shots across the ground was a confident Murali Vijay at the other end of the crease. India were looking well set for the win, but then happened India’s worst nightmare. With the visitors at 242-2, Nathan Lyon struck at the right moment to see off Murali Vijay for 99. That changed the overall course of the game, and although India went on to lose by 48 runs, it was a reminder that Kohli’s never-say-die attitude will never fade, irrespective of the situation.
VVS Laxman 167 at Sydney, 2000
It takes a positive attitude to keep fighting when wickets are tumbling at the other end, something which VVS Laxman showcased in the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in January 2000.
It was the third Test of the series, and Australia had already clinched the series with wins in the previous two. Laxman was enduring an inconsistent run of form, and it was high time that he played a big knock. But, nobody saw a Laxman epic in Sydney coming.
India elected to bat, but got off to a miserable start, being bundled out for 150. Tendulkar was the top-scorer with 45 runs, and Laxman managed to score just seven.
Matters went from bad to worse as Justin Langer’s 223 gifted Aussies a total of 552/2 declared, and maintain a lead of 402 runs. What followed was almost a one-man show from Laxman. Right from the start, wickets were tumbling, but thanks to his nature of patience, Laxman never lost focus. Tendulkar departed with India reeling at 33-3, but Laxman and Sourav Ganguly forged a 68-run stand to put up a fight. Despite this, India kept losing wickets, but that did not stop from Laxman being a threat to the Aussie bowlers.
It was finally only in the 58th over that Laxman finally surrendered, being dismissed by Brett Lee courtesy of an Adam Gilchrist catch.
Over-reliance on one man (Laxman in this case) is what cost India the match, as Aussies won by an innings and 141 runs. However, the legacy of this Laxman epic will remain forever in the hearts of all cricket-lovers.
Sourav Ganguly 144 at Brisbane, 2003
Probably one of his memorable moments as India skipper, Sourav Ganguly began the India-Australia Test series in prime fashion.
It was the first Test of the tour, and India won the toss and elected to field. That plan backfired with Justin Langer slamming 121, which led the Aussies to 323. In reply, India were restricted to 62-3, and then Ganguly entered. Throughout his innings, he swiftly played shots through the covers, precisely picking the right length of the opposition bowlers and decimating them.
Ganguly was dismissed by Stuart Macgill after a 146-run stand with VVS Laxman. While India went onto score 409 that innings, the outcome of the match was a hard-fought draw.
Rahul Dravid 233 at Adelaide, 2003
There are many tales of miraculous comebacks in sport, no matter which sport you look at. But, the second Australia-India Test at the Adelaide Oval 17 years ago, would arguably be the comeback of comebacks in international cricket. The first Test had ended in a draw, and this was another opportunity for both teams to open their account.
Australia put up a mammoth 556 following Ricky Ponting’s 242. India were down to 85-4 in reply, with Dravid having come in at number three, and things didn't look too good for the visitors. However, it was a whole different story altogether, with Dravid forging a 303-run stand with Laxman to help India to 523. And that was game-changing. Australia were bundled out for 196 in the second innings, and set up the visitors a target of 230. And although there were a few blips in the middle-order batting, Dravid stayed firm with an unbeaten 72 and ensured India crossed the finish line with four wickets to spare.
Cheteshwar Pujara 193 at Sydney
The fourth Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy. India were leading the series 2-1, and a win or draw would mean their first-ever Test success on Australian soil.
Test specialist Pujara struck at the right time with a knock of 193, which earned plaudits from the cricketing fraternity. India, batting first, lost KL Rahul early to Josh Hazlewood, and Pujara stood tall with a composed knock that took 373 balls, and left the bowlers guessing with more questions to answer.
This was in a Test where Virat Kohli (23) suffered a rare failure, but Pujara maintained resistance to lead India to 622-7. Rishabh Pant too remained unbeaten on 159. Australia were, in turn, dismissed for 300 and enforced follow-on, but that was even too late as the match ended in a draw and India scripted a historic series win.
Virender Sehwag 195 at Melbourne, 2003
It was a very special Boxing Day gift for Virender Sehwag in the Australian summer of 2003, as he slammed his highest-ever Test score against the Aussies at the iconic MCG.
This came just a few months before his first Test triple ton, so, it was needless to say Sehwag was in a rich vein of form.
India elected to bat, and Sehwag built a 141-run stand with Aakash Chopra for the first wicket. Chopra added 48 while Dravid scored 49 runs, but Sehwag was firing all cylinders with 25 fours and five sixes. This may be undoubtedly considered his best knock against Aussies, and he led India to 366 in the first innings.
Sehwag, however, flopped in the second innings sas India eventually lost the match by nine wickets.
Murali Vijay 144 at Brisbane, 2014-15
Murali Vijay’s knock of 144 was historic in a way that it was the most number of runs scored by an Indian on Day 1 of an overseas Test match.
Electing to bat first, India started strongly, but lost Shikhar Dhawan. And barring Rahane, the middle-order batsmen were unable to convert their starts. So, that too, was an extra burden on Vijay.
However, Vijay executed shots with ease as his knock from 213 balls led India to 408.
Despite this, Australia responded strongly, with Smith’s 133 guiding them to 505. In reply, India could manage just 224 and set the Aussies a target of 128. In spite of initial blips, the hosts chased down the target with four wickets to spare.
Cheteshwar Pujara 123 at Adelaide, 2018
There was nothing much to describe the Indian batting lineup in this Test match at Adelaide in 2018, but Cheteshwar Pujara's gritty 123 was enough for India to post 250 in the first Test. India's decision to bat first backfired with Rohit Sharma the second-best batsman after Pujara, with 37 runs.
However, Pujara did not lose focus and it was important for him to showcase a matured performance. Pujara followed it up with a knock of 71 in the second innings, which later set Australia a target of 323. The Aussies narrowly missed out on winning this engaging battle as the match ended in a draw.
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Ashwin came in with a sore back, Vihari had a hamstring tear that severely restricted his ability to run between the wickets. What the two did not lack was the resolve to hang in there and fight.
After rejoining team training, Warner was confident in his batting but was still uncertain he would be able to hold his own in the field in his current condition.
On the last day of the Sydney Test, Paine tried to unsettle Ravichandran Ashwin by sledging the Indian spinner and Gavaskar promptly termed it "unbefitting of national team captain" whose days as the man in charge seemed to be "numbered".